27 August 2020

Life insurance for smokers

As of 2019, it’s estimated there are 6.9 million smokers in the UK1, despite this number dropping substantially over the decades. While the harmful health implications of smoking are well known, there are other downsides to being a smoker as well. One of them is that life insurance will almost certainly cost you more if you’re a smoker.

Why does smoking affect life insurance?

Insurance companies rely on simple facts and statistics when deciding whether and on what basis cover can be offered, and they will set their premiums accordingly. When it comes to smokers, the fact is that they're statistically more likely to run a higher than average risk of ill health, disease and death at an earlier age. That means an insurance company is more likely to receive a claim on life insurance and critical illness cover from a smoker and they’re charged a higher premium. 

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Will occasional smoking affect how much I pay?

Whether you get through a few packs a day or just find yourself tempted by the occasional smoke when out with friends, it amounts to the same thing for insurers. They work to a very simple model – if you’ve recently used tobacco (normally in the last 12 months) you’re classed as a smoker. That includes any cigarettes, the occasional cigar and even nicotine replacements, e.g. patches.

Does vaping count as smoking to insurance companies?

Despite Public Health England reporting in early 2018 that vaping could be up to 95% safer than smoking normal cigarettes2 insurance companies still consider this another form of smoking. Regardless whether you vape with or without nicotine, it will increase premiums in exactly the same way, making them higher compared to non-smokers.

How do life insurance companies know whether you smoke?

While it might be tempting, especially if you’re only an occasional smoker, to be less than fully forthcoming when applying for life insurance, it’s not the wisest course of action. Insurance companies may ask for medical information when an application is made. If you do become ill and need to claim, your medical records could soon make it clear that you’re a smoker, the result could be a significant reduction in any cash pay-out, or even your policy being declared invalid. 

If I quit smoking, will this affect my life insurance policy?

If you have a policy with us and you have stopped smoking, that wouldn't affect your current policy or premiums in anyway and the policy would still be valid. However provided you meet our definition of a non-smoker you could be eligible to take out cover as a non-smoker after 12 months, which may affect the cost of a new policy. When cover is being replaced, it is normally a good idea to wait until your new cover starts before cancelling existing policies. 

Our definition of a non-smoker is no cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, e-cigarettes (whether or not they contain nicotine), or nicotine replacements at all in the last 12 months.

Help with quitting smoking

No matter how determined you may be, or how much you might want to reduce your premiums, giving up smoking is notoriously difficult for many people. Though help is available – check out the NHS website for practical, quick and simple steps to help you quit.

1 Office for National Statistics – Adult smoking habits in the UK: 2019 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandlifeexpectancies/bulletins/adultsmokinghabitsingreatbritain/2019  
2 www.gov.uk press release – PHE publishes independent expert e-cigarettes evidence review –