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Smoking and Life Insurance

Life insurance for smokers

We all know that smoking is bad for your health, it is also a very expensive habit. However, you might not realise that if you smoke it could also affect your chances of getting affordable life cover.

Because smokers typically die younger, insurers have to mitigate their risk by levying higher premiums on people they class as ‘smokers‘.

But who do insurers classify as a smoker, and what is the impact on their life insurance cover?

How do insurers classify a smoker?

In life insurance terms, if you have smoked or used any tobacco products in the past 12 months, you are classed as a smoker.

This means everyone from a 20-a-day cigarette smoker, through to the occasional cigar puffer is, in the insurer’s eyes, a smoker and therefore deemed a higher risk.

Smokers life insurance

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Is vaping classed as smoking?

On the road to quitting, many move to using nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum or most significantly in recent years’ e-cigarettes (vaping).

Whilst turning to these alternative products can improve your health, insurers will still regard you as a smoker until you are free of nicotine for at least 12 months.

Read our recent blog post on smoking and vaping »

How does smoking affect the cost of premiums?

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

Typically, it is around a third more for a 30-year-old smoker, and up to double the cost for a 50-year-old smoker.

SunLife suggests by the end of a policy, smokers could pay 75% more for their premiums, than non-smokers for comparable coverage – (source:

Whereas, research published by Money Saving Expert suggests this figure is even higher, at 96% more for a 40-year-old on a fixed term £200,00 policy, over 20 years – (source:

Compare multiple quotes to get the best deal

When it comes to working out the cost of premiums, not all insurance underwriters will treat smokers or ex-smokers the same.

The best way to ensure you find the very best quotes is to shop around, comparing multiple policies.

Alternatively, you can get a reputable broker, like Reassured, to search the market on your behalf (for no fee) – saving you time and money.

Can insurers test for smoking?

Yes. It is known as a cotinine test and a life insurance provider can request it as part of their medical exam process.

If your insurer requires you to attend an exam and you have declared you are a non-smoker, they are still likely to test you anyway.

Most applicants GP records contain information on whether they smoke. These records could also be requested by insurers as part of an application.

Life insurance and smoking infographic (2018)

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Be honest on your life insurance application

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

However, it is likely you will be caught out, as insurers can run medical checks, which will flag if you have not been truthful.

Even if you avoid the spot checks, your policy is unlikely to pay out if you are discovered to be a smoker.

If you die or develop a critical illness, your medical notes will reveal that you are a tobacco user and your insurer will usually take one of two courses of action:

  1. They just will not pay out and all your monthly premiums will have been wasted
  2. They will pay a proportion of your benefit, in line with how much less you paid than you would have if you had declared yourself a smoker.

The best way to mitigate the additional cost of life insurance for smokers is simply to quit, (see below).

Serious medical conditions linked with smoking

The disease most commonly associated with smoking is lung cancer, but did you know that smoking also increases the risk of a number of other serious conditions, (some terminal):

100,000 people die every year in the UK as a result of smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related conditions. Smoking increases your risk of developing more than 50 serious illnesses  – (source:

What if you start smoking after taking out life insurance?

If you start smoking after taking out a policy as a non-smoker, it is imperative that you tell your insurance company as soon as possible.

Failure to inform your insurer could impact on your ability to claim on your policy.

Quit smoking

As well as spending less on life insurance, if you quit smoking you are likely to have much more disposable income available.

The average 20-a-day smoker spends around £3,500 a year of cigarettes.

If you are keen to quit, here are some tips to help you stop:

Visit the NHS stop smoking website to learn helpful tips on how to quit and the added health benefits.

Important considerations for smokers:

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