Time Spent Smoking | A Self-Study | Scary Results with Hope

How much time do you think you spend smoking per day, week, month, year, or throughout your lifetime?

If you smoke, I’m sure you have thought about it. I smoked, and I thought about it. I looked for data online on how much time a typical smoker wastes smoking every day, but I didn’t find any data that really answered my question. Still wanting an answer, I did a one-week self-study from July 22, 2019 to July 28, 2019 to find out for myself. The results were shocking.

I spent 8 hours, 55 minutes, and 27 seconds smoking, including smoking-related activities, in one week! This means time spent smoking plus time wasted walking to the store to buy cigarettes.

Here are some other highlights from my self-study:

  • Average time spent smoking per day: 1 hour, 16 minutes, 30 seconds
  • Average number of cigarettes smoked each day: 17.9
  • Average time spent smoking each cigarette: 4 minutes, 17 seconds

I knew that I smoked a lot prior to doing this experiment. I occasionally did some mental-math to figure out how much time I was wasting, and then quickly forgot about it. With this self-study, however, I was able to actually see the amount of time (my time!) that I wasted day-after-day. The results, while not necessarily surprising, were horrifying!!!

To help you navigate this self-study, here is an index of section titles used in the article. Read it from beginning to end, or jump to the section which most interests you. Return to this article as a continued reference and source of inspiration. This experiment was for me, now it’s for you:

  • Self-Study Inspiration
  • More Than Just Smoking Time
  • Health Disclaimer
  • Experiment Setup and Rules
  • The Results
  • My Results Vs. Other Smokers
  • Did I Really Waste My Time?
  • 10 Incredible Things You Could Do When You Stop Smoking (A Fun Read!)
  • Recommended Resource
  • Related Questions
  • Other Experiments


WATCH the self-study results on YouTube, too!

Self-Study Inspiration

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. You know it. I know it. Non-smokers know it. And guess what… smokers know it, too! I know that I am hurting my health and my finances by smoking. Yet, I do it anyway. I’ve done it for years.

If I know this, why do I continue to smoke? This self-study experiment is not about that, not really, anyway. Instead, I just wanted to get some data for myself and answer a question that I could not find a satisfying answer to.

I do want to be a non-smoker again. I think all smokers feel the same way. I think, deep down, I want this experiment to be the turning point for me to become a non-smoker again. Nevertheless, I went into this self-study as a scientist. My personal beliefs, hopes and dreams did not alter the results. They are authentic.

More Than Just Smoking Time

As I thought about all the ways that I waste time smoking, I realized that it was much more perverse than just the simple act of smoking. Let’s quickly map out some steps in my normal smoking ritual:

  1. I start thinking about wanting a cigarette.
  2. I decide that this is the time to have a cigarette.
  3. I find my cigarettes and lighter. (usually in my pocket or on my desk)
  4. I take one cigarette from the pack.
  5. I walk outside to not smoke in the house. Good for me!
  6. I light my cigarette.
  7. I smoke my cigarette.
  8. I extinguish my cigarette in an ashtray or directly into the garbage bin.
  9. I walk back inside.
  10. I get back to whatever I wasn’t doing while I smoked instead.

As I thought more about it, I realized that I wasted time in other ways, too:

  1. I spend way too much time thinking about cigarettes and quitting in general.
  2. I spend time walking to the store and waiting in line to buy my cigarettes.
  3. I spend extra time showering and brushing my teeth so I smell better.
  4. I spend extra time washing my clothes because they smell like cigarettes.
  5. I spend extra time cleaning up ashtrays and stray cigarettes from the ground.

Health Disclaimer

I am not a doctor. I’m just a researcher, experimenter, and long-time, heavy smoker on a mission to improve his own life. Consult your doctor or a professional smoking cessation support expert if you are thinking about quitting.

Consider this experiment for entertainment purposes only, with a dash of inspiration and Excel thrown in to spice it up.

If you are already a non-smoker, DO NOT begin smoking so that you can replicate this experiment for yourself. That would be silly. Instead, enjoy this article and your life as a non-smoker! : )

Experiment Setup and Rules

To complete this experiment, I changed nothing from my daily routine during this week. I work from home, and my work schedule, while slightly variable, was the same as any other week. My fitness routine was basically the same. My weekend activities were pretty average and included meeting up with friends, many of which also smoke. There was nothing special to tamper with the results.

I did this for me so that I would know how much time I spent smoking during an average week. I wanted the results to be as accurate and representative as possible for me, and the more authentic the results the more applicable they might be to you, too.

So, the steps and rules for smoking a cigarette:

  • The moment I decided to begin my smoking ritual I opened a timer on my phone.
  • I hit start on the timer.
  • I smoked like I normally would.
  • I extinguished my cigarette.
  • I got back to wherever I was before my cigarette break.
  • I hit stop on my phone timer.
  • I recorded the time in an Excel spreadsheet.
  • I returned to the task I ignored while smoking.

I also tracked any time I needed to go to the store to buy more cigarettes:

No, you are not reading this incorrectly. My phone is set in Spanish. This is a screenshot of a recorded time during the self-study.
  • The moment I decided to go to the store, I opened a timer on my phone.
  • I hit start.
  • I went to the store as usual.
  • I bought my cigarettes.
  • I returned home and/or went back to life as normal.
  • I hit stop on my phone timer.
  • I recorded the time in an Excel spreadsheet.
  • This was usually followed by smoking a cigarette, too!

NOTE: This only applied to smoking related trips to the store. This did not include trips where I was going to the store to buy other household items or food. I was careful that this was for wasted-time only.

BEFORE YOU OBJECT: I am sure that there were ways that I could have improved upon this experiment setup and data collection. I also wonder that if by observing and tracking my habits, I changed them during the course of the experiment. Possible, although I really made an effort to keep this authentic and representative of a normal day/week for me.

Either way, that is not the point. The point is that I wasted a lot of time this week as a direct result of my smoking habit. This is time I cannot get back.

How much time did I waste, you ask? Let me show you…

The Results

I was honestly horrified by the data I was collecting. I wanted to quit right there on day one, but I kept going to finish the week-long experiment. It also offered a convenient excuse to continue smoking for another week.

Most of the results will be written with hours, minutes, and seconds. You may also encounter data with only minutes and seconds. To make sure the data is clear and easy to understand, here is a breakdown of the times:

  • 8:32:31 = 8 hours, 32 minutes, 31 seconds
  • 04:06 = 4 minutes, 6 seconds

Enough of a delay… here are the results:

Day Total Time # of Cigs. Avg. Time / Cig.
1 1:15:13 18 04:11
2 1:11:40 17 04:13
3 1:12:32 19 03:49
4 1:10:02 17 04:07
5 1:17:38 18 04:19
6 1:23:27 20 04:10
7 1:01:59 16 03:52
Total 8:32:31 125 04:06

But that’s not all. I also kept track of my trips to the store to buy cigarettes. Here is that data:

Day Buy Time

That’s the cold-hard data for you. I could play with these numbers all day. In fact, I did! Before having some fun with the numbers, let’s break them down into simple bites to digest.

In one week, I smoked for 8:32:31 and wasted time buying cigarettes for another 22:56. The math is easy:

  • Total time for the week: 8:55:27
  • Daily average: 1:16:30
  • Average # of cigarettes per day: 17.9
  • Average time wasted per cigarette: 04:17

In small units, 4 minutes and 17 seconds may not seem like a lot of time. The problem is, when you do this almost 18 times a day it adds up scarily quickly.

Almost 9 hours a week dedicated to smoking is, in my opinion, outrageous. It’s the equivalent of commuting to work, working a normal 8-hour day, commuting home, and doing absolutely nothing but chain smoke and buy cigarettes for a full work-day per week!

If one week looks bad, can you imagine what a month or year would look like? Fortunately, you do not need to imagine it because I crunched the numbers for myself and for you:

REMEMBER: This is total time, not time that I am awake and not sleeping. This means that in 6 months I would spend the equivalent of 3 days and 16 hours fully awake, doing nothing but smoking and going to the store to buy cigarettes.

Period Time (hours) Time (weeks and days)
1 month 9 hours
6 months 88 hours 3 days, 16 hours
1 year 176 hours 1 week, 8 hours
2 years 352 hours 2 weeks, 16 hours
3 years 528 hours 3 weeks, 1 day
5 years 880 hours 5 weeks, 1 day, 16 hours
10 years 1760 hours 10 weeks, 3 days, 8 hours
20 years 3521 hours 20 weeks, 6 days, 17 hours

My Results Vs. Other Smokers

With an average of 17.9 cugarettes smoked per day, I am a pretty heavy smoker. The amount that you smoke may vary quite a bit compared to me.

I also smoke pretty quickly. Smoking for 4 minutes and 17 seconds per cigarette is definitly on the fast end of the spectrum based on what my friends and family tell me, and based on the very limited data available online. My smoking habit is not a drawn out affair, nor is it especially social. I smoke my cigarette, then I get right back to whatever it was I was working on.

Some people, however, seem to turn a single cigarette into a 15 minute event. I have especially seen this at work, where groups of smokers congregate and chat for as long as they can get away with it.

Your time smoking may vary from mine. Nevertheless, if you smoke, rest assured that you are not only hurting your health and finances… you are also wasting your time.

Did I Really Waste My Time?

I suppose the next question to address is: How many of my cigarettes actually wasted my time?

Fortunately, I tracked this, too!

  • 111 of my 125 cigarettes were total time wasters. Thats about 89%.
  • 12 of my 125 cigarettes were smoked when I wasn’t really doing anything else anyway. That’s about 10%.
  • Most of these were smoked on Saturday when I was hanging out with friends.
  • 2 of my 125 cigarettes were smoked while I was walking. That’s only about 2%. Not bad, actually!

Considering this, I went back and recalculated everything again! Don’t worry, I will quickly summarize it here.

  • Total time for the week: 7:55:45
  • Daily average: 1:07:58
  • Average # of cigarettes per day: 17.9
  • Average time wasted per cigarette: 04:17

So, even adjusting for total accuracy and transparency, the results are terrible. This is of course, in my case. Maybe things are different for you? I doubt it, but it is possible.

I think you get the point by now. Not only is smoking harmful to your health and your finances, it is also an incredibly time-wasting activity. Remember that this is our time. When it’s gone, it’s gone. You cannot get it back.

Now, imagine what you could accomplish if you just had the time to do everything you wanted to do in life! Well, I thought about it, and I came up with some fun ideas.

10 Incredible Things You Could Do When You Stop Smoking

Let’s say you smoke. Then, overnight, you suddenly stopped smoking and had all of this extra free time at your disposal. What would you do with it? What could you accomplish? Here are some options:

1. Do 100 Pushups Every Day!

Pushups, squats, abs, arms, jump rope, anything (except calves!)… with over an hour of extra time per day you can seriously improve your body however you like.

I have been doing 100 pushups a day since 15-June-2019 and my body has changed dramatically. It honestly takes much less than an hour a day to complete them, even at the beginning. I have spent a lot of time doing pushups and documenting the results. You can read all about it HERE.

Or, you can watch my most recent YouTube video about my pushup journey. I plan to do 100 pushups a day, every day, for a year. Wish me luck, and come back to follow my progress.

Let’s break it down even further based on my smoking self-study numbers. Instead of smoking for 1 hour, 16 minutes and 30 seconds of my day, I could:

  • Complete 5.56 pushups per cigarette not smoked
  • Complete 1 pushup every 46 seconds for that same amount of time
  • Complete 1.31 pushups every minute for that same amount of time

2. Read 69.6 Extra Books a Year!

According to the Writers and Artists website, a typical novel has around 100,000 words. This number varies quite a bit depending on the type of book you read, but let’s stick with this number because it looks nice and it is easy to divide.

According to the Iris Reading website, the average person reads around 200-250 words per minute. Let’s be generous and use 250 words per minute.

Let’s do some simple math:

  • 100,000 words / 250 words per minute = 400 minutes to read a book
  • 400 minutes = 6.67 hours to read a book
  • I spent 8 hours, 55 minutes, and 27 seconds smoking each week.
  • So, I could read an extra 1.3 books per week!
  • I could read an extra 5.8 books per month!!
  • I could read an extra 69.6 books per year!!!

Sure, I could smoke and read at the same time, but c’mon… you are missing the point. INSTEAD of going through my entire smoking ritual, I could just keep a book next to me and read more. Even if I only read an extra 10 books a year, that’s still a huge accomplishment!

3. Learn a New Language in 3.41 Years!

According to the Cambridge Assessment English website, it takes, more-or-less, the following amount of dedicated study time to learn a relatively easy language like Spanish. These numbers would not necessarily apply to Arabic or Mandarin for a native English speaker.

Individual results depend on the relative difficulty of the language you choose and your effort, but let’s use this chart as a baseline.

Level Level Name # Hours Needed
C2 Mastery 1200
C1 Effective Operational Proficiency 800
B2 Vantage 600
B1 Threshold 400
A2 Waystage 200
A1 Breakthrough 100

That’s a lot of time to become a master in a language, right?

Well, imagine that instead of smoking I did 4 minutes and 17 seconds of dedicated study time in a new language like Romanian (why not?!?) about 18 times per day. What could I achieve?

According to my time spent smoking, I could reach each level in the following number of years:

Level Level Name Hours Needed Years to Get There
C2 Mastery 1200 6.82
C1 Effective Operational
800 4.55
B2 Vantage 600 3.41
B1 Threshold 400 2.28
A2 Waystage 200 1.14
A1 Breakthrough 100 0.57

If you can achieve a B2 level in a language you can really hold your own in that language. Many language trainers consider a B2 level to be functionally fluent. Thus, my goal would be to achieve a B2 level. I could do that in about 3.41 years.

4. Meditate!

There are countless resources highlighting the benefits of regular meditation. This Healthline article highlights just 12 of them:

  • Reduce Stress
  • Controls Anxiety
  • Promotes Emotional Health
  • Enhances Self Awareness
  • Lengthens Attention Span
  • May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss
  • Can Generate Kindness
  • May Help Fight Addictions
  • Improves Sleep
  • Helps Control Pain
  • Can Decrease Blood Pressure
  • You Can Meditate Anywhere

So, you could smoke, or you could meditate instead and get all of these amazing benefits on top of not smoking. Hmmmmm… almost seems too good to be true.

5. Become an Expert in Anything in 56.8 Years!

Malcolm Gladwell claims in his book Outliers: The Story of Success, that to become an expert on anything you need to spend about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in that skill. So, instead of smoking, I could become an expert on anything in 56.8 years!

This may sound like a ridiculously long time. Quite frankly, it is.

Still, let’s say you start smoking at 18 years old, a common legal smoking age. In theory, by the time you are 74.8 years old you could be a total expert in anything you wanted.

Maybe it is not as cut-and-dry as I make it out to be, but hey… at the rate I am going the only thing I will be an expert at by age 74.8 is in smoking cigarettes.

So, put that cigarette down, choose a skill you want to master, and get to work.

A quick rant on Malcolm Gladwell: I read his book. I like his book. And despite the fact that Malcolm Gladwell made some critical remarks about my alma mater, Bowdoin College, on a podcast titled Food Fight (listen to it for free HERE) I can let it go and still whole-heartedly recommend his book. Check out the current pricing for it on Amazon by clicking this affiliate link HERE.

6. Learn to Make 3D Origami Art!

I love origami. It’s so much fun. My favorite traditional origami figure is the jumping frog. Check out this YouTube video on how to make one.

But there is a type of origami that is so much cooler than traditional origami, and infinitely more ambitious. I’m talking about making 3D origami art. If you have never heard of it before, it is incredible. Watch this YouTube video and get inspired.

I did not crunch the numbers on this one, but needless to say you could make some really amazing 3D origami artwork if you dedicated your smoking time to it.

7. Play a Song 18 Times a Day!

According to Wired, the average song length is about 250 seconds. That’s about 4 minutes and 10 seconds. As it turns out, my average smoking time was just about the same. That means, I could practice a song over and over again 17.9 times per day and get really, really good at it!

Do that every day, and before you know it you might become a guitar legend.

8. Doodle!

Some people are really good doodlers. I once challenged my friend Jen to doodle every day for a month. She ended up making some really beautiful pieces in just a few minutes every day.

You can easily do the same. It may not seem like anything world-changing, and it probably isn’t. It’s just interesting to know that at the end of the day you could create something really nice and continue to get better at it, or go outside and smoke a cigarette.

Make sure to check out the photos of what Jen was able to do during her month-long doodle challenge.

9. Write 18 Haikus a Day!

Haikus are awesome. They are simple, yet sometimes deceptively difficult to craft just right. I occasionally tinker with haikus while I let my mind wander. I have even sent them out to family and friends as a fun and unique way to send a message.

The structure of a haiku is straightforward. A haiku has three lines. The lines each have a specific number of syllables:

  • Line 1: 5 syllables
  • Line 2: 7 syllables
  • Line 3: 5 syllables

Not convinced yet? That’s OK. Perhaps this will inspire you!?

Make a haiku now

It’s easier than you think

Look, I just made one!

-Jack Clancy, maker of haikus

See, it’s that easy. I could easily make 18 haikus a day instead of smoking. I could probably use my extra time to compile my poetry into an E-book and publish it. I doubt that I would make many sales, but I would be a self-published poet instead of a time-wasting smoker.

10. Clean Up and Declutter!

Do you every feel like you are too busy to do the dishes or clean up at the end of the day? I sometimes feel like it is a waste of time, or that I would much prefer to be doing something else during this precious after-work relaxation time.

Well, you could clean up and declutter your house little-by-little instead of smoking cigarettes.

Imagine a scenario where instead of smoking you took out the garbage, or did some dishes, or quickly organized a drawer… you get the idea.

Now imagine having more free time to enjoy at the end of the day in your ridiculously clean home! This might be a gross exaggeration, but every little bit helps, and even if it just saved you 15 minutes at the end of the day you could spend that time in so many more enjoyable ways.

Recommended Resource

If you smoke cigarettes and are thinking of quitting, I know of no better resource than Alan Carr’s book Alan Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I used this book 7 years ago and quit for 4 years. Unfortunately, it just took one cigarette in a moment of weakness to get me hooked again for the last 2.5 years.

If you could not tell, quitting has been on my mind recently. I repurchased this book and am reading it again. If you are interested in reading the book, check out the current price on Amazon by clicking this affiliate link HERE. The best part is, Alan Carr recommends smoking while reading the book!

Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allen Carr

Of course, you should also consider talking to your doctor or consulting a professional smoking cessation support expert.

Related Questions

How much time and money is wasted on workplace smoke breaks? Based on this 2018 article by Jobbio, smokers in some job sectors can waste up to 1 hour and 20 minutes every day because of their smoking habit. You can do the math yourself on this one, but if I were an employer and my employees were wasting this much time at work smoking, I would be furious, too.

An interesting, yet slightly older, CNBC article from 2014 reported that U.K. businesses lost around $14.50 billion per year thanks to employee smoke breaks. This was based on four breaks per day at 10 minutes per break. Seems plausible. I’ve definitely wasted more time than that. What could this mean worldwide? It’s scary to think about.

What’s the best way to quit smoking? I wish I had a simple solution that fit everybody perfectly. Based on personal experience and discussing the topic with many people who have successfully quit, it all seems to come down to mindset. You have to want to quit in order to be successful. How you can achieve this is another question. The best I can guess is that you need a strong enough why. With a strong enough why, anything is achievable.

Other Experiments

I really enjoy doing little experiments and recording the results. I also like doing bigger personal challenges and recording the results. This Smoking Time Experiment is one of many experiments and challenges that I have been conducting on myself. To learn more about the others click these links below:

Do I wear 20% of my clothes 80% of the time? (1-Month Self-Study)

  • Ever hear of the Pareto Principle? It’s the 80/20 Rule.
  • Some people claim that we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.
  • I did not believe them, so I tested it on myself.
  • Read the article on my website HERE.
  • Check out the YouTube Video right here:

100 Pushups a Day for 30 Days Challenge | Back Surgery Edition | Month 1

  • I performed 100 pushups a day, every day, for 30 days.
  • I had a minor back surgery during the challenge.
  • After finishing the 30 days, I kept going…
  • I plan to do this for a year!
  • Read the most updated blog post about it HERE.
  • Watch the most updated YouTube video about it right here:

Jack Clancy

Everything I do is focused on this concept: "To inspire personal change, so that together we can become the people we wish to be."

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