Smoking and life insurance

Since the ban in 2009, the percentage of smokers in the UK has been in decline, however, this figure still represents approximately 9.1 million[1] people.

Around 96,000 deaths occur each year, as a result of smoking, highlighting the importance of life insurance for smokers.

This need becomes greater still if you’ve dependants who rely on you financially.

Without adequate life insurance in place your loved ones may have to:

Because smokers statistically die younger, insurers mitigate their risk by charging higher premiums on people they class as smokers.

Despite this, it’s still possible to secure affordable life insurance, even if you’re a smoker. Find out how…

Insurers classify you a smoker if you use nicotine replacement productsInsurers still class you a smoker if you use nicotine replacement products

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How do insurers classify a smoker?

In life insurance terms, if you’ve smoked or used any nicotine replacement products in the past 12 months, you’re classified as a smoker.

As well as cigarettes and cigars, this also includes those who use nicotine replacement products such as patches, mints or even vaping.

With around 3.5 million people in the UK now vaping instead of smoking[2], this brings the number of smokers to an all-time high with regards to life insurance classification.

Luckily, not all insurers provide a definitive line between smokers vs non-smokers, offering different classifications based on your type of nicotine use and the quantity you use.

Therefore, a 20-a-year cigarette smoker may benefit from lower premiums than someone who smokes 10-a-day.

These categories and thresholds will differ significantly depending on the insurer, and therefore it’s essential you compare policies before arranging cover.

On rare occasions, the quitting period may be as long as 5 years before you’re classed as a non-smoker, so it’s essential to check the individual specifications with your insurer before declaring yourself a non-smoker.

Life insurance for smokers - Infographic [2018]

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Smoking-related illnesses

Unfortunately, smoking brings with it an increased risk of many medical conditions.

These include cancer, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and respiratory failure.

Whilst the correlation between smoking and lung cancer is perhaps the most well-documented, the habit also increases the risk of developing other types of cancer including throat, mouth and stomach.

You’re also more likely to suffer cardiac failures such as heart attack and stroke, as well as respiratory diseases such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

These health risks, increase the cost of life insurance premiums for smokers.

Life insurance for cigar smokers

As discussed, the use of any nicotine product classes you as a smoker in the eyes of insurers, this includes cigars.

The same rules apply, meaning that if you only smoke the odd cigar to commemorate a special occasion, you may be classed as a non-smoker providing you don’t exceed a certain threshold determined by the insurer.

As always, it’s best to discuss your cigar smoking truthfully during the application process and compare multiple quotes to ensure your cover is both valid and cost-effective.

Is vaping classed as smoking for life insurance?

As we have established, if vaping currently or within the past 12 months, you’re still classed as a smoker by the insurer.

Vaping has massively grown in popularity over the past decade and many flavoured, yet non-nicotine-based liquids, are now available.

In the eyes of the insurer, whether you use nicotine or non-nicotine based liquid, you’re still classed as a smoker and therefore, must declare your habits at application.

Life insurance premiums for smokers

Smoking can significantly increase the cost of your monthly life insurance premiums.

Typically, monthly premiums cost around a third more for 30-year-old smokers and double for 50-year-old smokers when compared to non-smokers.

This could result in a smoker paying up to 75% more over the term of their policy compared to a non-smoker[3].

But why?

Life insurance companies calculate the cost of your premiums based on the likelihood of you making a claim.

The health issues associated with smoking increase this likelihood and therefore, insurers mitigate their risk by charging higher premiums.

As mentioned earlier, rather than taking a black and white stance towards smoking, some insurers now classify smokers based on how they consume nicotine and their quantity of intake.

As a result, those who smoke less frequently could benefit from cheaper monthly premiums if they were to go with the most suitable insurer.

As always, age affects the cost of your premiums. As a smoker, it’s even more important to arrange life cover as young as possible because as you age your premiums increase at an even faster rate.

The best way to find the most cost-effective and suitable solution is to use a life insurance broker to compare multiple quotes on your behalf.

Smokers should compare quotes as prices can varySmokers should compare quotes as prices can vary

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Life insurance for ex-smokers

As mentioned, you’re still considered a smoker until you’ve refrained from the consumption of nicotine and nicotine replacement products for a minimum of 12 months.

Therefore, when taking out life insurance as an ex-smoker, it’s unlikely you’ll see any immediate benefit reflected in the cost of your premiums until you have at least met this 12-month threshold.

Equally, it depends on how long you smoked for as to whether or not you’ll ever experience a benefit from quitting.

For example, if you’ve smoked for 40 years, insurers may take the view that the damage has been done.

Therefore, regardless of the period you have quit for, your monthly premiums will still be higher due to the increased risk you pose to the insurer.

As a result of different insurers employing different underwriting criteria, it’s best to obtain multiple quotes to determine which policy best meets your unique needs.

Quitting during your policy

Generally speaking, quitting smoking won’t immediately impact the cost of your life cover. However, the longer you quit, the more likely you’ll benefit from lower premiums.

Although, in rare instances, once you declare to your insurer you have quit, they may provide you with an immediate decrease in premium cost.

But this may be subject to ongoing spot checks to ensure you’re remaining true to your word.

Whether you benefit immediately, or in the future, it’s always important to let your insurer know if you’ve quit the habit.

Occasionally, insurers won’t update your premiums to reflect your new non-smoker status.

When this occurs, it may be beneficial to compare quotes for a new policy as a non-smoker as the premiums (even at an older age) may be more attractive.

If you would like to quit smoking, visit the NHS website for help:

Starting smoking during your policy

If you start smoking during the term of your policy, it isn’t essential to tell your insurer, but it could be in your best interests.

If you fail to tell your insurer that you have begun smoking and then die within the first two years of your policy (the contestability period), your insurer has the right to investigate your death to determine the cause.

If the cause of death is deemed due to smoking, your insurer may deem your policy as invalid as it is not documented when you started smoking and therefore, could have lied at application.

To prevent your loved ones being denied a pay out, it is best to inform your insurer of your new smoking habits, although this could result in an increase to your premiums.

Smokers test for life insurance

Whether you declare yourself a smoker or a non-smoker, insurers have the right to test your smoking status.

Generally speaking, when you submit a life insurance application, it’ll be assumed that the information you have provided is truthful.

However, an insurance provider has the right to request a cotinine test (urine or salvia) as part of their medical process to determine your smoking habits.

It’s also commonplace for your medical records to display your smoking status.

These can be requested from your GP during an application and if you’re found to have lied, you could not only be declined cover but also be at risk of being charged for insurance fraud.

Being declined life insurance for smoking

Although rare, in some instances you may be declined life insurance if you’re a smoker. But you do still have options.

In these instances, it’s usually due to the associated risks of smoking, combined with other high-risk elements within your life. For example, your age or an existing medical condition.

Using an impaired life specialist, such as our dedicated team at Reassured, can help increase your chances of obtaining life cover protection.

Alternatively, age permitting, you could take out an over 50 plan which offers guaranteed acceptance for UK residents aged 50-85.

Here no medical exam or health questions are required and your smoking status is ignored.

Whilst smoking won’t affect your chances of being accepted, it’s worth noting that smoking status is taken into account and therefore, your monthly premiums could be higher.

Reassured's impaired life team can arrange previously declined smokersReassured's impaired life team can help previously declined smokers

Non-disclosure, (be honest on your application)

It can be tempting to claim you’re a non-smoker when you’re not, particularly when you consider the increased premiums.

However, lying about smoking on life insurance is not a good idea.

Insurance providers have the right to request your medical records and/or a cotinine test during the application process.

If either of these determines you’ve lied about your smoking status, you could not only be refused life insurance but you also risk being charged with insurance fraud.

This carries a fine and possible prison time.

Equally, if you’re found to have lied about your smoking status upon your death (potentially via your medical records or cause of death), it could render your policy invalid.

This could result in one of two outcomes:

  1. A pay out won’t be made and all your monthly premiums will have been wasted
  2. Only a proportion of your pay out will be honoured, in line with how much less you paid than you would have if you had declared yourself a smoker.

Life insurance for ‘pot’ smokers

Smoking cannabis actually falls under recreational drug use as opposed to smoking when applying for life insurance.

You’ll be asked about your recreational drug use during the application process, at which point you should declare any cannabis smoking.

You’re unlikely to be declined life insurance for smoking cannabis unless your usage is of a dangerous level, although your premiums may be increased.

And in some instances, if your use is very sparse, it’ll not be declared on your application at all.

It can be tempting to not declare your cannabis use (especially as the act is illegal) but insurers are not there to judge.

Failure to disclose your cannabis habits during the application, however, could deem your policy invalid and risk your loved ones being denied a pay out.

Compare quotes: Save yourself time and money

Whilst it’s almost inevitable that as a smoker, you’ll experience higher premiums than that of a non-smoker, it’s still possible to save money on your life insurance.

The best way to do this is by comparing multiple quotes from different insurers.

Life insurance quotes can differ significantly between providers, therefore, by comparing policies you can find the most suitable cover, at the most affordable price.

Using an FCA regulated life insurance broker, such as Reassured, allows the hard work to be done for you.

We’ll obtain quotes from a wide panel of insurers and supply you with all of the information and support you need to make an informed decision.

And the best part? Our award-winning brokerage service is completely free to use.

Simply get in touch and start your journey to securing cost-effective life insurance.

Life insurance for smokers in summary:

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