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Cost of a lifetime of smoking equivalent to an 800 sq ft flat, Chinese University study finds

Tobacco not only seriously harms health it ruins your wealth, Chinese University study finds

A smoker in the city will burn through more than HK$1 million in a lifetime, enough money – if invested well – to buy an 800 sq ft flat on Hong Kong Island, a Chinese University study found.

It found Hong Kong was the third most expensive place in the Asia-Pacific region for smokers, after Australia and Singapore.

Assuming consumption of one packet a day, Hong Kong smokers spend an average of HK$20,440 a year.

Vivian Lee Wing-yan, associate professor at the university’s school of pharmacy who conducted the study, said she hoped smokers could understand that quitting the habit would enable them to enjoy better wealth and better health.

“The money spent on cigarettes can be used on investment instead to potentially increase their assets,” Lee said yesterday, ahead of World No Tobacco Day on Sunday.

“Reducing the smoking population can significantly alleviate the disease burden and reduce public health expenditure.”

Smoking can cause a number of fatal conditions, such as heart and respiratory diseases and cancers. It also imposed a huge economic burden on the health care system, Lee said. But despite the many adverse effects of tobacco being recognised, many people had still not quit.

The study investigated the tobacco cost per person throughout their lifespan in Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Australia. It assumed that the smokers started at the age of 18 and smoked one pack a day.

Australian smokers were most out of pocket, having to spend over HK$100,000 a year, followed by around HK$55,000 for Singaporeans.

Lee said if the smokers invested all the money they spent on tobacco, the returns when they retired at 60 years old were equivalent to the price of an 800 sq ft flat on Hong Kong Island, based on Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

Lee estimated the annual economic loss caused by smoking in Hong Kong at over HK$11.3 billion. “We hope to provide a reference for the government to enforce tobacco control, and enhance anti-smoking policies.”

Department of Health figures show the smoking rate for people above 15 is 11.1 per cent in 2010, one of the lowest in the world.

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