Why Infidelity has a ‘Smoking’ Effect: An Economic Analysis

As much as we might not like to admit it, infidelity in Nigeria is astonishingly high. Every female friend I’ve made since I’ve been back in Nigeria has been blatantly hit on by married men. I’ll admit, this opinion is highly anecdotal and possibly statistically invalid, given that I don’t have close to 250,000 female friends to ask. Anyways, I digress from the intent of this post. A lot of cheating happens in Nigeria, let’s leave it at that.

So I kept wondering, moral reasons aside, is there an economic argument for and against cheating? To put it less simply, what is the economic cost-benefit analysis of infidelity? The more I analyzed, the more I realized that the economic effect of cheating is strikingly analogous to the act of smoking cigarettes. Skeptic? Fret not. I’ll take you through these similarities. Let’s begin with the costs.

Burning Financial Resources (Pun intended)

Much like cigarettes, cheating reduces the earning power of the nuclear family. A family with a tobacco addict will have a significant level of income going into the purchase of cigarettes; money that unfortunately goes up in smokes (Pun intended again. Sorry!). Likewise, cheating moves resources away from the family to …well…the ‘other family’. Typically, large amounts of spending go into financing external relationships: trips to Chinese Restaurants and Drumstixs (for those on a budget); hotel bookings (Penthouse Suites in London preferably); Brazilian hair, bags, shoes and jewelry go into these expenses. After all, it’s never cheap keeping the ‘second-lady’ happy. Moreover, just like a compulsive smoker is likely to steal to get his/her fix, a cheat might be willing to compromise his/her value to finance external affairs.

Health Cost

The same way second-hand smoking kills those around a smoker is the same way the action of a cheat damagingly affects those around him/her. Infidelity potentially leads to higher medical costs associated with depression, other mental health issues and STDs. Also, society suffers from lost productivity and depression due to infidelity.

Time Waste

Compulsive smokers don’t care what time they smoke, as long as they do. Result: time waste. Likewise, two-timers might not be cognizant of the time spent cheating, as long as they do. A common trait of both usually involves disappearing for long periods of time and surfacing with half-baked excuses.


Getting out of a smoking addiction can be very difficult and expensive. You could go ‘cold-turkey’,i.e. completely deprive oneself of cigarettes, but very few are successful. Locking oneself in a rehab is a more effective, but expensive option. Likewise, in infidelity, there’s also the ‘shut-up’ money that goes into trying to terminate the affair quietly. Sometimes, that goes well…most times not so well. So what benefit could infidelity possibly have? Keep reading.

Creation of services

The tobacco market actually plays a role in economic growth by employing a number of people. However, the health costs of tobacco potentially erase the economic gains from the sale of tobacco. Like cigarettes, infidelity actually had an economic benefit. Believe it or not, it plays a role in job creation…at night…on the streets (I won’t explain that one. Figure it out yourself). Also, empty hotel rooms don’t bring money in. Imagine the number of hotels/motels that would shut down if people stopped cheating…or the number of flowers, chocolate, cars, apartments, and trips to France that would remain unsold.

So yes, infidelity actually has its positive externalities…but it’s also bundled with a lot of negative externalities, both social and private. In ‘simple English’, the disastrous repercussions of cheating far outweigh any of its benefits. No amount of economic gain can make up for the broken homes, disillusioned followers, depression, single-parent children and all other social ills that infidelity causes.

I’ll end this with one more similarity and a lesson: a company of smokers tend not to smell the pungent scent surrounding them. Smokers can walk into a stench-filled room and not notice…because they’ve gotten used to the smell. Likewise, a society with a high level of extramarital affairs wittingly ignores the moral stench of marital infidelity, and before long, unwittingly forgets what it smells like.

Necessary Disclaimer: I commenced writing on this a week before the Pastor Biodun of COZA and Miss Ese extramarital affair saga. So, it’s more of fortuitous timing than riding on the coattails of public fascination with high profile affairs. 🙂

  • Lol. “Necessary disclaimer”. Oh well, this was an interesting read. Sadly, people are fast getting used to infidelity and unfortunately have begun to accept it as “the norm”. A few days ago on twitter, someone actually said cheating is normal and ladies should just accept it. I was appalled that any reasoning human being would have such an opinion but sadly, he’s not the only one thinking that way. When I tried to counter him, he asked me if any of my relationships had been void of infidelity…
    I totally agree with you that infidelity definitely has wayyyyy more cons than pros. No matter how much it adds to an economy, it’ll never measure up to the level of damage done in the long run.
    Brilliant piece. Loved the puns btw 😉
    Cheers 🙂

    • Ha. Exactly. The interesting part is that guys start to see it as their rights. Interestingly, these rights aren’t accorded to the ladies.

  • Reblogged this on kingsiju.

  • Soji

    I thought this was Ese’s rejoinder..until, well, the disclaimer. Nice read: simple, straight to the point

  • Amaka Enyi

    Even though infidelity has more cons than pros it hasn’t stopped the cheaters from cheating and it never will. I believe what would deter the cheater from his cheating ways is simply a change of heart.

  • Spread of STDs may be a significant health cost due to infidelity as well.
    Really enjoy your blog and narrative voice : )

    • Yes. It’s certainly a cost, especially for unsuspecting spouses. I’m really glad you like it, Lauren. Thanks for reading,

  • Anonymous

    Hi, been reading your blog for a while, and I find it interesting. To validate your point about the smell of infidelity not being noticed after a while, you may want to read this book by Francine Rivers – The Last Sin Eater

  • Reblogged this on DrMaestro's Blog and commented:
    Interesting read…

  • Lari

    The same applies to obesity (or living the good life). Why single out infidelity. And by whose definition is it infidelity? By that of our forefathers who practised polygamy before the arrival of the white man, or by that of the colonial masters who gave out the bible with the front hand while holding a gun underneath it. Is it also infidelity when it is a religiously acceptable practice like it is in Islam or the indigenous religions? A lot of holes I must say although you do make the analogy work well. So well done on that.

    • First, the same does apply to these other factors you mentioned, but i was writing about ‘infidelity’, hence my focus on ‘infidelity’. An hallmark of good writing is being able to keep the topic focused.
      Second, infidelity still happens in all these marriage systems you’ve mentioned, religious or not. Polygamy doesn’t permit sleeping with any woman. It permits sleeping with certain women one is married to. Also, Islam doesn’t permit infidelity…that much should be obvious.
      Third, even if these systems or religions permitted them, it does not change the effects that infidelity would have. If you noticed, I made no moral arguments for/against infidelity. Rather I outlined a cost-benefit analysis based on the effects of infidelity. Hope this plugs in a few of those holes. Cheers.

      • Lari

        I’m sorry but your implied definition of infidelity assumes a monogamous relationship. How else would you explain such inferences as ‘the nuclear family,’ ‘the other family,’ ‘cheating,’ as variously used in your write-up? Once you’ve implicitly defined infidelity as a sexual liaison outside of a monogamous relationship, you restrict your argument to a discourse within that context. This may work in a western society where monogamy is widely accepted as the standard but it doesn’t in an African or Arabic society. You should therefore make it explicit what your definition of the family is.

        You say the ‘other family.’ I say what makes it ‘other’? You say ‘the nuclear family.’ I ask does that include a polygamous home? The very premise upon which you build a case for infidelity is open to questioning. What if the married man chasing that other woman is doing so in order to eventually make her his 2nd or 3rd wife? Is this also infidelity? Or do you refer just to casual sex outside of marriage, in which case your reference to the ‘other family’ then becomes inconsistent? I only pose issues for you to consider. Nigerians are not a homogenous group of people especially when it comes to marital issues unlike the vast majority in the West.

        • Lari

          And I believe that once you’ve clearly defined your frame of reference, you can then do an even more proper cost/benefit analysis. For instance, that polygamous man (depending on which camp he falls into based on your definition of the family) may be a rural farmer who needs all the hands he can have to help with farm work. The more wives and children the merrier. Is this then a pro or a con?

          • I did not set out to write an article on the pros and cons of every type of marriage arrangement in Nigeria. That would just be pedantic, especially considering that polygamous families (the sort of 20 wives) are few and far between. Hence their effect on a an aggregate scale is minimal. A Muslim man who goes after other women when he has three wives at home is indeed cheating. The Koran doesn’t give men permission to simply sleep with every single lady they can bag. At least that’s what I know. Hence the effect also applies to Muslims. If you care to write a whole thesis paper on the effects of infidelity in the context of every type of marriage system,please do so. That’s not what I set out to do & nothing said changes that. Cheers.

          • Vickie

            Na wa o @ Lari. What are you going on about? U just want to argue abi? #rollseyes

  • This is brilliant . Infedelity truly has economic significance in our society both good and bad .