It might seem strange to see an article on quitting smoking on a financial website. But smoking is a very financial enterprise. Companies such as AltriaGroup (NYSE:MO), Reynolds American (NYSE:RAI), British American Tobacco (AMEX:BTI), and UST (NYSE:UST) clearly profit from the tobacco business. And tobacco use is estimated to cost Americans some $90 billion per year or more in medical expenses -- with more than $17 billion coming from Medicaid.

A more Foolish way to address the cost of smoking, though, is to examine its personal price tag. Imagine that you smoke one pack a day, and each pack costs you, on average, about $4.50. Multiply $4.50 by 365 days, and you're looking at an annual cost of $1,642. Let's see what would happen if you took this $1,642 and invested it in the stock market, earning the historical average return of about 10% per year. In 30 years, you'd have some $28,000. If you invested $1,642 in the market each year for 30 years, you'd end up with more than $250,000. Yowza.

Those who would like to quit should know that there are more resources available to you today than ever before, most notably online. For example, several years ago, we opened a "Quitting Smoking" discussion board. Since then, it has filled with more than 40,000 posts from people who have quit or are interested in quitting. These folks are continually supporting and encouraging each other, and many end their posts with this unique kind of signature: "Daniel. Seven months, one week, three days, 20 hours, 44 minutes and 30 seconds. 4,497 cigarettes not smoked, saving $764.54. Life saved: 2 weeks, 1 day, 14 hours, 45 minutes." And: "Cori. Fourteen years, two months, three weeks, six days, 14 hours, 34 minutes and 36 seconds. 156,078 cigarettes not smoked, saving $23,411.73. Life saved: 1 year, 25 weeks, 2 days, 22 hours, 30 minutes."

According to the American Cancer Society, within the first minute of quitting, "Your blood pressure goes down. Your heart rate goes down. Your lung capacity increases. You can taste your food better."

For more information on quitting, visit the Surgeon General's info site and You'll find some products that might help you at