How does smoking affect life insurance?

The health risks of tobacco use mean that being a smoker can have a serious impact on the cost of protection policies, such as life insurance and critical illness cover. This is because smokers are more likely to suffer from health problems such as cancer, heart disease and strokes. Insurers consider them more likely to claim on a policy due to early death or serious illness than non-smokers. Here, we explain when insurers class you as a smoker, and why it’s vital to be up-front on your application, even if you only smoke occasionally.

Lisa Parker
June 14, 2023

Am I classed as a smoker?

Insurers will consider you a smoker if you’ve used any tobacco or nicotine replacement products, including vaping the last 12 months. Generally whether you smoke once in a while or 20 cigarettes a day; you’ll be classed as a smoker. Even if you use nicotine replacement products such as patches, gum or vaping, insurers will still see you as a smoker, because these contain nicotine.

When it comes to determining how much you will pay for your policy, most insurers don’t distinguish between occasional and regular smokers, although some will charge you more if they consider you to be a heavy smoker – over 40 a day for example. You won’t be classed as a non-smoker however until you have been completely nicotine-free for 12 months..

Should I wait to buy cover if I’ve only recently given up?

If you’re a smoker, or have recently become a non-smoker, don’t wait until you’ve given up for 12 months before you buy life insurance, as it’s still better to have cover than none at all. Talk to an adviser now about choosing a provider that will allow you to switch to non-smoker rates once the 12 months is up. Some providers will want you to re-apply if you want to be classed as a non-smoker, but others will allow you to switch to cheaper premiums without having to submit a new application. You may however need to provide a saliva swab or cotinine test as evidence that you no longer smoke. Cotinine is a chemical your body makes after you are exposed to nicotine..

Is vaping classed as smoking?

In 2020 there were 3.2m users of e-cigarettes or vapes in the UK, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH),compared to 700,000 in 2012. When you smoke an e-cigarette, a liquid is heated and becomes a vapour which you breathe in, just as you would inhale smoke from a tobacco cigarette.

Although vaping is frequently used by people who are trying to stop smoking altogether, for most insurers you’ll still be classed as a smoker if you use e-cigarettes as they usually contain nicotine. Some insurers ask specifically about vaping whereas others ask about nicotine replacement products, so if you do use vapes without nicotine speak to an adviser to find the right insurer.

How does smoking affect the cost of my life insurance?

As you can see from the table below, monthly premiums for life insurance can be significantly higher if you’re a smoker, and even more so when Critical Illness cover is added on.          

*Based on a 35 year old wanting £150,000 cover over 25 years. Monthly premiums correct as of March 2022.

How do life insurance companies know if you smoke?

Even if you only have the occasional cigarette, it’s important to be up-front with insurers. They may ask your GP for medical records to find out whether you are a smoker and they can also request urine or saliva tests which would show evidence of nicotine. If you died and they discover that you weren’t honest on your application, this could mean they refuse to pay any claim made or may only offer a significantly reduced payout.

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