How Much Does Smoking Cost in Singapore?
Historically, Singapore has always enacted pretty stringent smoking policies. In 1971, Singapore became the first Asian country to prohibit tobacco advertising. Smoking in various public places has been banned since 1970, and the list of public areas where Singaporeans can light a smoke is ever shrinking. These measures made a significant impact on the smoking rate in the country, bringing it down from 23% in 1977 to 13.3% in 2013.
Just one problem: the decline in smoking rates has hit a plateau, staying stagnant in the past few years.
To combat this, Singapore has tabled a new bill on October 2 to amend the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act. If passed, the bill will raise the minimum smoking age in Singapore from 18 to 21, as well as make possession of imitation tobacco products illegal.
While the move has been lauded as a possibly effective measure for reducing smoking prevalence, some critics point out that those who are underage can circumvent the limit, simply by obtaining cigarettes through the black market.
The financial cost of smoking
Whether or not you think raising the minimum smoking age is a good move, it’s likely that most Singaporeans (even the smokers among us!) will agree on one thing: smoking is expensive.
Just how expensive is smoking in Singapore? In a comparison between the world’s ten most expensive cities, Singapore comes up at number three for most expensive branded cigarettes, at an average of US$9.15 (or about S$13) per pack. For the average smoker, smoking can burn a pretty nasty hole in the wallet over time. Here’s how:
If you smoke a pack a day, you’d be spending S$4,745 a year on cigarettes! It’s no pocket change, and you could probably think of a few other ways you’d rather spend that amount of cash. Otherwise, we provide a few suggestions:
a day, at S$13 a pack
|Forgoing a pack for one day could buy you a cinema
ticket or a meal at an inexpensive restaurant.
|Swap one vice for another and indulge in retail therapy
– S$403 could get you two pairs of Nike running shoes.
|The amount you could save by not smoking for a year
is no small sum – it's close to the average monthly
salary (after tax) in Singapore. With S$4,745, you could
afford to upgrade to the newest iPhone every
year. As of 2017, you could even get x3 iPhone 8 Plus
with this money.
|In 5 years, the amount of money a pack-a-day smoker
would have spent really starts to snowball. With S$23,725,
you could pay a year's worth of rent for a 1-bedroom
apartment outside the city centre.
|In a span of 20 years, the amount of money spent on
cigarettes could go up to a whopping S$94,900. This
could go to the down payment of your home, or to a
purchase of a car.
Instead of spending that money on cigarettes, imagine if you had chosen to invest it. Investing S$4,745 each year for 20 years will net you around S$200,000 (before inflation), based on an annual return of 7%. That’s a tidy sum of money that could provide a significant boost to your retirement fund. Even if you were a light smoker at five cigarettes a day, investing the amount of money you would have spent on cigarettes would net you around S$50,000 after 20 years.
Other financial costs of smoking
Unfortunately, the financial drain of buying cigarette packs is only a fraction of what you may spend as a smoker. Here are other costs to factor in:
- Higher insurance premiums – smokers may pay substantially higher premiums for life and health insurance, compared to non-smokers.
- Beauty and dental costs – yellowing teeth, bad breath and premature wrinkling are just a few examples of aesthetic concerns that may cause a smoker to spend more on dentist visits, skincare, breath fresheners and other miscellaneous items and services.
- Home and auto costs – tobacco use can leave unpleasant smells, stains and burns in your home and car. Some materials, like upholstery, carpets and drapes absorb and retain the odor of cigarette smoke, which may incur extra cleaning and replacement costs. Worse still, this may diminish the resale value of your house or car.
- Decline in workplace productivity – research suggests that smokers miss two or three more days of work each year than non-smokers. For employees not entitled to sick leave, this would mean a loss of income. Even if you aren’t missing any work days, smoke breaks can reduce your productivity. While this may not affect your pay directly, it can undermine your job performance record.
Health costs of smoking
Of course, smoking is not just taxing on your wallet, but also on your health. In Singapore, tobacco use kills about seven Singaporeans each day, as it increases the risk factor for cancers and other diseases.
It’s clear that smoking is a costly habit, and one that we would be wise to avoid. For those of us who have already taken it up, quitting can be incredibly hard, but it may be worth the effort.