Second thoughts on a good deed - Part 2

by Dr. S. Russell Vester, MD 1. June 2013 13:44

When I saw that hand holding a cigarette come out of that driver’s window my earlier feelings of sympathy and compassion instantly changed to disappointment. Great disappointment. Here’s why.

In order of bad to worse, these are the errors in judgment I saw this woman making at that moment. She left home with her children in the car knowing she was going to come to a toll booth for which she did not have enough money. She had decided to buy cigarettes with what money she did have. She had hoped that she would encounter a sympathetic toll booth attendant that would give her a free pass. She had hoped she would not have to pay the price for this incredibly selfish decision. She wanted you and me to pay for her use of the toll road while she was literally blowing smoke. My hat is off to the guy in the toll booth for holding her to the rules.

Next, she had her children in the car with her. Bad enough that she was setting a lousy example for her children by smoking at all, but here she is smoking in a closed car filling her children’s lungs with her second-hand smoke. Don’t even get me started here.

But what’s the worst? Right, she made the decision to smoke in the first place. We can only hope that she didn’t smoke when she was pregnant. About this I am not optimistic.

The last two points I’ll spend some time on in upcoming blogs. Let’s start with the economics of smoking as it relates to this unfortunate incident. The larger scale economic picture will have to wait. The average cost of a pack of cigarettes today is right at $5. At 20 cigarettes per pack, that makes each cigarette “worth” 25 cents. A week’s worth of smoking sets you back 35 bucks. By the end of the month you’re out $150. By year’s end you’ve invested $1825 in some tobacco company. Two packs a day will set you back $3650 and not a single share of stock to show for it.

Smoke two packs per day for twenty years and we’re talking $73,000 up in smoke. Albert Einstein, when asked what was mankind’s greatest invention, replied “compound interest.” At 5% interest compounded annually for twenty years, that $73,000 would worth a bit north of $130,000. At 30 years the total grows to just over a quarter of a million bucks. At 40 years it’s all but a half a million!

If you didn’t smoke, chances are you’d live to enjoy the proceeds of your investment. If you did smoke instead of investing your money, hopefully you had a life insurance policy that was good enough to provide your family with similar returns.

If there is anything such as a negative investment, smoking must certainly be it.

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