Everyone knows that smoking is risky. Long gone are the days where people could plead ignorance to the dangers of inhaling nicotine and various other chemicals.
Warnings about the harm posed by cigarettes have been issued for decades. Rules have also been introduced to ban tobacco advertising and prevent smoking in enclosed spaces.
But millions of people still take up the habit every year. Even the increased risk of developing life-changing diseases and conditions isn’t a deterrent.
There’s also a financial price to pay. Here we take a look at how being a smoker could affect your chances of getting a life insurance policy.
Can I get life insurance as a smoker?
Yes, you can. The good news is that you can still get life insurance if you smoke. However, the downside is that you’re likely to pay more because of the increased risk to your health.
At the very least you might need to answer extensive questions from insurance companies who want to assess the potential longer-term damage to your health.
This means you might have to shop around more among various providers to find companies willing to provide a cost-effective policy.
Some insurers might only charge you a little bit more if you’re an irregular smoker. However, if you’re getting through several packs of cigarettes every day, you’re likely to pay a higher price.
Is smoking still a problem?
Despite widely-publicised government health warnings over many years, smoking remains a big problem in the UK.
In fact, 14.1% of adults – that’s around 6.9 million people – still puff away on a regular basis, according to official figures compiled in 2019.
However, it’s a habit that’s not just expensive, but potentially fatal. Between 2016 and 2018, 77,600 deaths were attributable to smoking per year in England.
More broadly, 19% of the world’s adult population smokes, while the legal global tobacco market is worth around US$818bn, according to British American Tobacco.
Its report suggested an incredible 5.2tn cigarettes are consumed annually. However, it noted that this number has been falling. “This is largely due to increased regulation and changing societal attitudes,” it stated.
Why does smoking affect life insurance?
Insurance companies look at a number of factors when calculating life insurance premiums. Their aim is to make a judgement on your health and, to be frank, how long you might live.
Therefore, anything that could have an adverse effect on your life expectancy might be considered.
- Dangerous jobs
- Risky hobbies
- Genetic conditions
- Alcohol use
But smoking is right up there, too. The health dangers posed by nicotine and the myriad chemicals inside cigarettes means applicants who smoke are at greater risk of disease and death.
Research has shown it causes or is linked to:
- Lung cancer
- Respiratory disease
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Cancers in the lips, mouth, throat, bladder, kidney, stomach, liver and cervix
How much extra do smokers pay for life insurance?
This varies between insurance companies. It also depends on your age and general health. All of these factors are taken into consideration when you apply for life insurance.
As a rough estimate, a younger smoker in their twenties might see a relatively modest increase of 25% to 30% in their monthly premiums.
However, the financial penalty is likely to be harsher for older smokers. For example, someone in their fifties might find they’re asked to pay double the premium of a non-smoker.
Therefore, if you want to reduce your premiums, it’s definitely worth joining the ranks of the non-smokers.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that the amounts charged vary between insurers. This is why it’s always vital to do your research and compare life insurance policies before making a final decision.
However, ensure you’re comparing like-with-like when it comes to the policies. A policy might appear cheaper than an existing quote but this could be because it doesn’t offer the same level of cover.
Start a life insurance quote
I have the occasional cigarette. So, am I a smoker?
You might not class yourself as a smoker if you only have one or two on a night out. However, you’re much more likely to be seen as one in the eyes of insurance companies.
Most insurers have a straightforward approach to the dilemma. If you have had any type of nicotine in the past 12 months then you’re a smoker.
If you’re not addicted – and have the willpower to give up – then it’s definitely worth considering quitting tobacco before applying for life insurance.
Even if your initial premium is still inflated, maybe even for up to a year, at least you’ll be on the road towards a healthier and financially better life.
What are the benefits of quitting smoking?
Alongside the financial benefits is the boost that giving up provides to your health. When you stop, your lungs have the chance to start repairing themselves, according to NHS advice.
Other positive effects could be felt quickly. For example, all carbon monoxide is flushed out of your system after 48 hours, while both your taste and sense of smell should improve.
After eight hours, your oxygen levels should be recovering, while your breathing starts to feel easier and your energy increases after 72 hours.
After a year you should have the prospect of cheaper life insurance premiums, and your risk of suffering a heart attack should have halved, in comparison to a smoker.
How do life insurance companies know whether you smoke?
You should be asked on the application form if you smoke – as well as whether you’ve done so in the past. You need to be specific and accurate with your answers.
If you are a smoker, you might be asked about your smoking habit. For example, they might want to know how many years you’ve smoked and whether that has been continuous.
They might also be interested to know what you smoked. For example, were you a 20-a-day cigarette smoker or did you have a regular cigar after dinner?
Linked to this could be questions about your general lifestyle and exercise. This includes whether your health has been adversely affected by smoking.
If you smoke heavily and can’t remember the last time you even walked around the block, this won’t be music to an insurer’s ears.
What happens if I lie about smoking to my life insurance provider?
Don’t even think about it. You might be confident getting away with having a few sneaky cigarettes on the side but lying on the application form is never worth the risk.
If your insurance company finds out that you’re smoking when you’ve said otherwise, they might refuse to pay out should your family make a life insurance claim after you die.
Even if they do agree to pay out a sum, it could be significantly less than it would have been. Is it worth the risk just to shave some money off the monthly payments?
The truth always has a way of emerging – and our widespread use of social media platforms makes it increasingly difficult to keep anything a secret these days.
Will my premiums go down if I quit smoking?
Yes, possibly. Your premiums may well decrease if you stop smoking, although they’re unlikely to drop immediately.
It all depends on the individual insurance company. Some, for example, might not consider you as a non-smoker for 12 months after you’ve given up.
They might also require proof of your new non-smoker status. For example, they could ask your GP to provide an update on your overall health.
In some cases, they might want to see a chest x-ray as part of their investigations. It’s worth checking the policy with individual insurance companies as they’re likely to vary.
Is vaping the same as smoking when it comes to life insurance?
If you vape – as opposed to using cigarettes or cigars – you might not see yourself as a smoker. But insurance companies are likely to take a different view.
Most insurers view vaping in the same light as smoking, along with chewing nicotine gum or wearing a nicotine patch.
Their stance is largely because the jury is still out on vaping. Despite being touted as a safer alternative to cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, there are question marks over the industry.
According to the British Heart Foundation, more research is needed on the long-term impact of vaping – especially on your heart and blood vessels.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, Associate Medical Director at the BHF, said:
“Just because e-cigarettes may be less harmful than tobacco doesn’t mean they are completely safe.”
What else should I be aware of as a smoker?
As is always the case with insurance policies, it’s vital that you read the terms and conditions of your life insurance policy carefully before signing any agreement.
There are two reasons.
The first is to double check all the information that you’ve given the insurance company is correct to the best of your knowledge.
The second is to ensure you understand the policy wording – and your obligations. For example, it could have a caveat in place for those who start smoking after taking the policy out.
While your policy is based on the information provided at the time of application, some insurers request that you tell them should you embrace the habit at a later date.
In fact, informing the insurance company could be a condition of the policy, and any failure to do so might invalidate it. That’s why it’s important to read everything carefully.
If there’s anything you don’t understand then clarify this with the insurance company. It’s better to do so now then run the risk of your estate not getting the payout.