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Life insurance for smokers: What you need to know

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You can still get life insurance, even if you smoke or vape. But you’re likely to pay more because of the increased risk to your health. This means you might have to shop around more to find a cheaper policy.

Some insurers might only charge you a little bit more if you’re an irregular smoker. But if you’re getting through several packs of cigarettes a day, you’re likely to pay more.

Here's what you need to know.

A person holding a cigarette after smoking it

Insurers consider a 'smoker' to be anyone who uses products that contain nicotine. This includes:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
  • Vaping
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nicotine gum

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're completely safe.”

You might not class yourself as a smoker if you only have 1 or 2 on a night out. But you’re still likely to be seen as a smoker by life insurance companies.

When you compare life insurance quotes with us, we'll ask you "Do you smoke?" and your options are:

  • Yes - current smoker
  • Yes - ex-smoker
  • No - never smoked

We also clarify that "if you've smoked in the last 12 months you're classed as a 'current smoker'. This includes cigars, pipes, e-cigarettes, nicotine replacements and regular cigarettes."

What our home & lifestyle insurance expert says

"Most insurers believe that you’re a smoker if you've had any type of nicotine in the past 12 months - even if you consider yourself a 'social smoker' who has the occasional cigarette.

"If you’re not addicted or have the willpower to give up, then it’s worth quitting before applying for life insurance."

Insurance companies look at several factors when calculating life insurance costs. Their aim is to make a judgement on your health and how long you might live.

Therefore, anything that could have an adverse effect on your life expectancy is considered. And according to NHS England, smoking can reduce your life expectancy by around 10 years.

From a life insurance perspective, smoking increases the risk of you making a claim sooner. This increased risk means higher premiums.

The health dangers posed by nicotine and the chemicals inside cigarettes mean 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

According to our data, the average monthly premium for a current smoker is £30*. For someone who's never smoked, the average monthly premium is £22. And for those who've quit smoking, average monthly payments range from £23 to £26.

The actual amount you're likely to see varies between insurance companies. It also depends on:

  • Your age
  • Your medical history
  • If you still smoke/vape or have given up
  • How much you smoke/vape

Insurers look at all of these factors when you apply for life insurance. But the financial penalty is likely to be harsher for older smokers.

If you want to reduce your insurance costs and improve your health, it’s definitely worth quitting.

When you get a life insurance quote with us, we'll ask you about your smoking habits. You need to be honest and accurate with your answers.

When you apply for life insurance, the insurer may ask you more questions. For example, they might want to know how many years you’ve smoked and whether that's been continuous.

They might also be interested to know what you smoked and how much. For example, were you a 20-a-day cigarette smoker, or did you have 1 regular cigar after dinner?

Linked to this are questions about your general lifestyle and exercise. This includes whether your health has been adversely affected by smoking.

What happens if I lie about smoking to my life insurance provider?

If your insurer discovers you’re smoking or vaping when you’ve said otherwise, they might refuse to pay out. If your family makes a life insurance claim after you die, it could be refused.

Even if they do agree to pay out a sum, it could be significantly less than it would have been.

Quitting smoking could reduce your life insurance costs, but not immediately.

When you compare life insurance quotes with us, you have the option of telling us that you're an ex-smoker. To be an ex-smoker, you must not have had any nicotine products in the last 12 months at least. If you have, you're considered a 'current smoker'.

Depending on the insurer, you might not be able to amend your life insurance policy midway through. To update your smoking terms, you may have to arrange a new policy instead. Make sure you check the terms and conditions carefully before signing.

Some insurers may also require proof that you've quit. 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.

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*Confused.com data. July - September 2023, £100,000 cover.

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