Sure, quitting is costly—but it doesn't have to be as expensive as you think.(GETTY IMAGES)At first glance, the decision to quit smoking can seem like a financially challenging one: The thought of shelling out hundreds of dollars for nicotine patches and gums, drugs, and other stop-smoking aids may be enough to deter even the most motivated self-reformers. But compared to the cost of a daily (or even weekly) pack of cigarettes, the drain on your wallet is only temporary. Plus, if you're successful, the cost of quitting can quickly pay for itself.
Thankfully, there are many low- to no-cost resources to help you quit smoking; even expensive medication can often be obtained at discounted prices. Here are seven tips for making quitting cost less.
1. Check your insurance policy.
In a 2002 survey by America's Health Insurance Plans, a national association that represents the health insurance industry, a majority of insurers reported providing full coverage for some form of smoking-cessation treatment. More than 40% of the companies who responded to the survey also reported full coverage for bupropion (Zyban), one of the leading smoking-cessation drugs.
2. Take advantage of free counseling and support services.
Once youve decided to quit, youll have a much greater chance of success if you plan ahead and get some sort of support, says Bill Blatt, manager of tobacco control programs for the American Lung Association. Fortunately, getting a plan—a personalized one, at that—is free. To get yours, call the national quit line at 800-QUIT-NOW, which automatically connects you to a quit specialist in your state. The counselor will ask you about your smoking habits and can help you determine which aids (gum, drugs, patches, etc.) might be worth a try.
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The counselor also can direct you to local counseling and support groups; the latter are often free or have a nominal registration fee. Once youve stopped smoking, you can also call the quit line if you need to discuss cravings or coping strategies.
Local chapters of the American Lung Association have low-cost group clinics in cities across the country. "Depending on where you live, theres a $75 to $150 registration fee, but we encourage the local chapters to avoid turning people away due to financial problems," says Blatt. In other words, dont be afraid to mention it if the cost is prohibitive. Another option: the American Lung Associations online program, Freedom From Smoking. For more information about both, go to LungUSA.org.
Next Page: Nicotine replacement products [ pagebreak ]3. Get free or discounted nicotine gum, patches, or lozenges.
Some state and local health agencies distribute nicotine replacement products at a discount or free of charge, says Blatt. Check on their availability through the national quit line (800-QUIT-NOW). For example, New York Citys smoking-cessation programs, which are offered at hospitals and clinics throughout the city, include free nicotine patches, free motivational and informational materials, and free or low-cost counseling services.
4. Go generic.
Save money by taking the generic version of the quit-smoking drug Zyban, which is significantly cheaper than the brand-name version; a 90-day program of brand-name Zyban costs $552, while the generic, bupropion, costs $200. (The other quit-smoking drug, Chantix, is not yet available as a generic.) Generic versions of over-the-counter nicotine replacement products (gum, patches, lozenges) are also available on drugstore shelves, and are usually less expensive.
5. Comparison shop.
Its worth shopping around for drugs and nicotine replacement products, advises Blatt. Costs can vary tremendously from one pharmacy to another. Also check prices online at Drugstore.com, CVS, Walgreens, and other retail-pharmacy sites.
6. Check out programs offered by your employer.
"Many workplaces have quit-smoking or wellness programs that offer free counseling and discounted (or free) nicotine replacement products," says Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for Americas Health Insurance Plans.
7. Use a flexible spending arrangement or health savings account to pay for smoking-cessation aids.
If you qualify for one of these accounts, the money you spend on smoking cessation wont be taxed. It may seem obvious to pay for prescription medication with these accounts, but many people don't realize that in most cases you can buy over-the-counter aids or pay for counseling sessions with this money as well.