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The Cheapest Ways to Stop Smoking Posted: March 10th, 2010

By Megg Mueller

Megg Mueller is a journalist with almost two decades of experience. She has worked as a reporter and editor for the Reno Gazette-Journal, as editor of health care and education manuals and was an assistant travel editor for USATODAY.com.

While there are many ways to quit smoking, some have a better success rate than others. So how do you choose from the many choices, and which are the cheapest methods to help you kick the habit?

The Cheapest Ways to Stop Smoking

There is no question that there are health benefits when you quit smoking. And the cost savings of kicking the habit go beyond the money you'll save by not buying cigarettes: Health insurance and life insurance premiums are cheaper for nonsmokers because of their lower medical care costs and increased life expectancy.

Smoking Is an Expensive Habit

While the price of cigarettes varies across the country, one pack in New York City is about $10; across the country in Nevada, cigarettes run about $5 a pack.

Although quitting may make sense for both your health and your wallet, smokers are often concerned about the cost of smoking-cessation products and treatments. However, Bill Blatt, director of tobacco programs for the American Lung Association, points out that a little math reveals that quitting may not be as costly as you think.

"People need to work out how much they're spending on smoking," Blatt says. "A lot of people lose track of how much it costs them. It's very easy to spend several thousand dollars a year on tobacco."

Blatt suggests writing down some numbers:

  • How much you smoke per day.
  • How many packs you purchase a week.
  • How much cigarettes cost where you live.

Total up the amount, and you might see that paying to quit smoking is cheaper than the habit itself. "Recognize that while you'll spend money to quit, your health insurance is cheaper, as are your health care costs,'' Blatt says.

Resources to Help You Quit

The first step Blatt and the American Lung Association recommend is to call your state's Quit Line. This is a government-backed program every state participates in that offers free regional information on cessation programs, counseling, and sometimes even free medication available in your area.

You can also call the American Lung Association's general Lung Helpline (1-800-LungUSA), where you can speak to a nurse or respiratory therapist who can help you create a plan to quit smoking.

In addition to these hotlines, there are many free online services to help you in your quest to quit smoking. Publications, Web sites, and support groups are available on national and local levels. Blatt says counseling and other behavioral therapies have the most successful quit rates, while those who attempt to stop suddenly, or go "cold turkey," often have a 5 percent quit rate.

Check with Your Health Insurance Plan

More free help may be available. Check your health insurance plan for smoking-cessation coverage. Some medical insurance policies cover at least part of the cost of smoking-cessation programs and prescription medications such as Zyban or Chantix, which are non-nicotine medications.

There are many over-the-counter medications as well. While your health insurance won't cover these products, over-the-counter nicotine-replacement products, such as nicotine gums, inhalers, nasal spray, lozenges, or patches, can be valuable to your effort.
Initially, over-the-counter medications can seem costly. For example, a box of Nicorette with 100 pieces of gum (daily use is nine pieces) runs about $43 per box. However, the daily cost for other smoking-cessation products can average as low as $0.11 a day --depending on what brand you buy. Plus, as Blatt advises, you should keep the cost of your smoking habit in mind when shopping for a way to quit.

Alternative Therapies

Alternatively, acupuncture and hypnosis are also sometimes used in an effort to drop the smoking habit. While it's more common for health insurance policies to cover these treatments today, it's a good idea to check your particular policy. Out-of-pocket, these treatments can be more expensive than the ones previously mentioned.

Acupuncture is sometimes used to alleviate the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal, and there are patients who have found great relief in the ancient Chinese practice. However, the efficacy of these treatments isn't as well-documented as counseling and the various medications. In fact, a study by Consumer Reports showed that acupuncture had very little effect for those who were trying to quit smoking. The report showed there were no harmful effects of acupuncture, but overall the treatment did very little to help the patients stop smoking.

On the other hand, hypnosis has shown some promise as an aid. U.S. News and World Report wrote about a study that showed hypnosis, when combined with nicotine patches, was as effective as patches and more traditional counseling. According to the study findings, hypnosis may help to encourage relaxation and also provide coping skills for people trying to quit smoking.

Evidenced-Based Methods May Be Your Best Bet

Blatt encourages smokers who are looking for the most cost-effective way to quit smoking to stick with one of the treatments that are "evidence-based," such as medications and counseling.

These treatments generally have a higher success rate, and Blatt says that can be more than just cost-effective. Of the failure rate associated with unproven methods, Blatt says, "Financially, it's a bad idea, plus it's also really depressing for folks who are trying to quit."

Whatever method you choose to quit smoking, Blatt advises people take advantage of the support that's available, whether through a program like the Quit Line or a local group that meets to share successes and challenges. While you may have tried to quit in the past, instead of looking at that as a failure, look at it as a step you can recreate and find success in. The next step might be freedom from smoking, better health, and lower health insurance and life insurance premiums.

Megg Mueller