Smoking is an expensive habit. Of course, it often comes at the cost of good health, but it also thins the wallet. Especially in Australia and New Zealand, where there’s the highest prices of cigarettes in the world. For a 20-pack of Marlboro cigs, you’d need to pay $27.74 USD in Australia and $23.67 USD in New Zealand. (In Australian dollars, that’s $40 and $34.13 respectively.) One grandmother in Tasmania used these prices as a teaching moment for her grandkids. She created a “Smoking vs Eating” challenge where they had to buy a cart of food for the same price of a pack of smokes. Her eye-opening photo of the results went viral.
Grandmother Compares the Price of Cigarettes to Food
In a Facebook post, Judy Kerrison said the idea for the challenge came when her grandchild commented on how expensive cigarettes were after watching someone buy a 40-pack for $56.95 AUD (about $39.31 USD). So she challenged the kids to buy “basic” food items with that amount as a budget. “They were surprised at the amount of food you can buy for the same monetary value,” she wrote. 
Their shopping trip included a wide array of food for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, including milk, yogurt, bananas, spaghetti, carrots, bread, cereal, sausages, and apples. “Must say, I hope this exercise has made them aware of life’s choices… and not to take up this habit,” Judy wrote.
People praised the grandmother for her post. “Well done for putting this really great demonstration of what a choice can do,” one commenter wrote. Another added, “20 smokes a day at $25, basically go to Italy twice a year.”
They applauded the way she turned a lesson about smoking and budgeting into a fun game. It was a “great way to make a point that involves them and they physically see the difference,” one wrote. Someone else added, “A lesson they will never forget. Well done.” The post also succeeded in inspiring smokers trying to quit.
Recreate the Cigarettes vs Food Challenge Around the World
Since cigarettes are priced differently all over the world, you could create your own Smoking vs Eating challenge based on where you live. Tobacco prices have risen over the years due to taxation specifically increased to deter people from buying these unhealthy products. Australia and New Zealand have the highest prices, followed by Ireland, who charges $16.14 USD for a 20-pack. Next comes, the United Kingdom, Norway, Canada, then Singapore, which charges $10.90 USD.
The country with the cheapest cigarette prices is Pakistan, at $1.10. Nigeria, Vietnam, Ghana, Kazakhstan, and Turkey’s prices are fractionally more expensive than that. You can check the prices in your own country on Numbeo.  In the United States, prices differ from state to state and the American Lung Association states the average smoker smokes 15 cigs per day. So in New York (the state with the highest price at $11.96 a pack) a smoker would need to pay $8.97 a day or $3,274 a year. Then, in Missouri (the cheapest state at $6.11 a pack) an average smoker would need $4.58 a day or $1,672 a year. 
Most people are familiar with the negative health effects of smoking. The CDC states it harms almost every cell in the body and is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smoking can lead to lung disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and makes people at risk for immunity issues, tuberculosis, eye diseases, and tooth loss.  But its financial impact is less talked about. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to quit the habit even while aware of all of these pitfalls.
Why is it so hard to quit?
There are two main difficulties while quitting cigarettes. One involves the body getting used to functioning without nicotine. And the second involves reworking daily routines and behaviors that used to revolve around the habit. Nicotine is the main addictive drug in tobacco and it triggers the release of feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Over time, the brain begins to depend on nicotine to feel normal. So quitting causes the brain to get irritable, causing withdrawal symptoms like anxiety, difficulty concentrating, sleeping issues, general discomfort, and the persistent urge to smoke. Additionally, there are many associations that will increase that craving. Triggers could include routine activities that used to involve a cigarette, like taking work breaks or socializing.
They could also involve emotions or stresses that used to be “treated” with a cigarette. Quitting involves figuring out a healthy replacement for a smoke and a healthier way to manage emotions and stress. 
The body recovers after quitting
The good news is the benefits of quitting smoking begin almost immediately. Twenty minutes after the last cigarette the heart rate and blood pressure drop. A few days later, the carbon monoxide level in the blood return to normal. After two weeks to three months, the lung function and circulation improves.
One to 12 months later, the coughing and shortness of breath symptoms would reduce as the lungs begin to function normally. After one or two years, the risk of heart attack drops drastically. The rewards grow as time goes on, and one of them is definitely the money saved. Although quitting is difficult, know that the body recovers more every moment. 
- “Tasmanian grandmother’s ‘smoking vs eating’ challenge highlights the cost of cigarettes.” 7News. Pip Christmass. January 28, 2020
- “Price Rankings by Country of Cigarettes 20 Pack (Marlboro) (Markets).” Numbeo. Accessed January 12, 2023
- “Cigarette Prices by State 2023.” World Population Review.
- “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking.” CDC. October 29, 2021
- “Why Quitting Smoking Is Hard.” CDC. January 3, 2022
- “Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Over Time.” American Cancer Society. November 10, 2020