Welcome to my “daily comment.” The ground rules Ceres and I have agreed to are simple. I can write whatever I want, ranging from a sentence to an epic, and nothing is off limits. I can even say things like, “Don’t trade stocks yourself — for most people, it’s smarter to invest through no-load mutual funds.” Which it is.

Everybody knows nicotine is addictive, smoking causes cancer and heart disease (among other things), and that tobacco executives lied under oath to Congress. But when there’s so much money at stake, nothing’s easy. We spend something on the order of $5 billion a year in this country alone promoting the leading cause of preventable death in America.

And so there’s actually been an uptick in teenage smoking. Kids think they’re immortal, and it’s certainly true that no teenager is going to die from smoking until he or she is at least in his or her thirties or forties, and more likely fifties or sixties, which seems preposterously old to a teenager anyway, so there’s little point lecturing your son or daughter about the health toll of tobacco.

Forget health. Tell ‘em about the money.

Because the fact is, once you’re hooked on a pack a day, that’s $700 a year, give or take (plus having to pay double for life insurance and more for cold remedies and the like), which could otherwise be invested in a mutual fund. With a bit of luck, that mutual fund might over a lifetime appreciate at 10% a year. So, tell your son or daughter, one way at 65 you have cancer, the other way you have — are you ready? — $814,000!

Tomorrow: More tobacco facts


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