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An expensive habit

Roger Manyen has smoked since he was 12 years old and although he wishes he could stop, the Kauai resident understands that old habits die hard. 

“I don’t know why I did it, it was just a thing that all us neighborhood kids did,” Manyen said. “I’m 52 years old, it was like in the 70s when I started but I quit for 15 years and I moved here and I started smoking again last year … I wish I had never started again.” 

Although Manyen has tried to quit smoking three times since he has been on Kauai, he said the transition has been difficult and smoking has been tough to kick.  

As the leading preventable cause of death in the U.S, smoking kills 480,000 a year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Although people like Manyen understand the physical risks of smoking, they may pay with more than just their health.

The U.S has more than 60 million smokers. Those who choose to smoke will pay $1.4 million during their lifetime for costs associated with the habit, according to an analysis by the website WalletHub.com. 

Contributing factors to this number include health care costs, lost wages from health reasons and money paid out to continue the habit. Hawaii ranks at the bottom of the list — 45th overall out of all 50 states and Washington D.C.— meaning it’s one of the highest in the nation. The cheapest was South Carolina.  In all, the societal and economic costs of smoking have totaled $301 billion a year and are growing, the study says.

In Hawaii, the state’s tobacco cost for the lifetime of a smoker is $1.8 million overall.

Around $1.3 million will go to tobacco products alone. Health care costs are $185,972 per person. The study also analyzed the amount of income lost per smoker in Hawaii, which is $270,537.

Cigarette packs can cost around $10 per pack on Kauai.

“I moved here from Cali and in Cali, the cigarettes were $6.50 a pack,” Manyen said. “My neighbor smoked two and a half packs a day and I told him ‘Bob,’ I said, ‘do you know how much money you could be saving if you didn’t smoke?’” 

The study also indicated that the cost of tobacco for a smoker will be $1 million and set the amount of income lost per smoker at $212, 878 over their life time.

“If there was no such thing as tobacco and somebody attempted to introduce something like this, it would be very much rejected because of all the things we learned about it,” said Lila Johnson, Tobacco Prevention and Education program manager. “It’s a product when used as directed that will kill you.” 

Having worked for the Tobacco Prevention and Education Program for 19 years, Johnson has seen the effects of smoking but stated there are many ways for a person to quit. 

“We have the Hawaii Tobacco Quit Line, which provides nicotine replacement therapy: NRT … the quit line provides gum or patches for those who call,” said Johnson. “We in Hawaii have seen the social norm change in regards to smoking. In Hawaii, we have clean air laws where you can’t smoke tobacco in any private work site. Just the fact that you are not able to smoke anywhere at any time prevents people from doing it.”

As for those who smoke on Kauai, many of them hope that those who wish to smoke never start, including Raymond Rodriguez, who wants to kick the habit.

“I’m a skateboarder and I like to be active and so sometimes I can’t keep up with myself and it’s from smoking,” said Rodriquez. “My mom was smoking when I was growing up. When she turned 32, she quit cold turkey and I didn’t believe she could do it but she wanted to prove to herself that it was possible, that if you put your mind to it, you could quit, no matter what.”

Thonasina Anderson urged people not to start smoking and if they do smoke, to stop.

“It’s a death certificate, if it’s not now, it’s later,” Anderson said. “You will pay because you’re asking your body to pay. I have done it and I have reaped the repercussions of smoking and there are many.”

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