10 questions about life insurance you'll want to know the answer to if you're a smoker

NHS figures [1] show that there were an estimated 74,600 deaths in Great Britain from smoking in 2019. 506,100 hospital admissions in the years 2019 and 2020 were estimated to be attributed to smoking, with almost one in ten adults still enjoying a regular cigarette.

Based on smoking 10 cigarettes a day, smoking costs over £1,000 a year [2]. However, it’s not just the cost of tobacco that can hit you hard in the pocket. Life insurance can also cost you significantly more as a smoker.

Here are the 9 questions about life insurance you’ll want the answer to if you’re a smoker.

1. Does being a smoker affect life insurance?

Yes. The cost of life insurance as a smoker varies depending on other factors, but you can typically expect your life insurance to increase by more than half than a non-smoker would pay.[3]

2. Why is the premium more expensive for smokers?

Cancer Research UK states that smoking is the biggest cause of cancer in the UK and worldwide. Cigarettes can cause at least 15 different types of cancer and damage the cells in our body, while smoking cigarettes releases more than 5,000 chemicals. [4]

The simple fact is that you are statistically more likely to claim on a life insurance policy if you are a smoker than if you are a non-smoker. That makes your life insurance more expensive, as you represent a bigger risk to the insurer.

3. Do I have to disclose that I am a smoker?

Yes. If you fail to disclose a significant fact on your application form, this is considered ‘insurance fraud’. This can result in:

• The insurer only paying a proportion of your benefit, in line with how much less you paid than you would have if you’d declared yourself a smoker
• The insurer voiding your policy and refusing to pay the claim
• Criminal prosecution

4. How will the insurer know that I smoke?

While insurers often assume that your application is honest, they can ask for a urine or saliva test to prove whether or not you smoke, normally at application stage. They can also contact your GP for information on your medical history.

5. What constitutes a smoker for life insurance purposes?

Most life insurance applications are worded in a very specific way. Generally, they ask you if you ‘have used tobacco or nicotine in the last 12 (or 24) months?’
If you answer ‘yes’, you will be classed as a smoker for life insurance purposes.

6. What about life insurance for occasional smokers or patch users?

Insurers do not generally make any distinction between regular smokers, occasional smokers or replacement product users, like patches or gum.

As far as an insurer is concerned, you are considered a smoker if you have used any tobacco or nicotine products within a specified period (usually the last 12 or 24 months).

7. Does smoking vapes or e-cigs impact my life insurance cover?

Figures from ASH [5] estimate that there were more than 4.7 million adults vaping in the UK, 93% of whom are either current smokers or ex-smokers.

Many people have turned to e-cigs to help them to stop smoking or because they are seen as less harmful than traditional cigarettes.

However, from a life insurance perspective, e-cigarettes are also categorised as cigarettes. [6] This is mainly because of the lack of long-term research into their effects.

8. How do I get the best price for life insurance for smokers?

Different insurers have different rates for smokers. So, to find the best rate for you, you have two choices:
• Use an online comparison service to find out which insurance companies will offer you the best rates
• Speak to an experienced financial adviser who will know which companies are more likely to offer preferential rates to smokers

9. What if I used to smoke but don’t anymore?

If you have used nicotine or tobacco products in the past you may still be classed as a smoker – even if you have given up.

If you give up nicotine products (and replacements) for at least 12 months, you may then be able to qualify for lower premiums [7]. Bear in mind that your insurer can ask for proof – with a spot check – and so you will need to be honest.

If you have been tobacco or nicotine free for more than 12 months, tell your insurer. They may be able to offer you more competitive terms although this may require you to take out a new plan.
You could also shop around for cover to see if you can get a better deal with a different insurer on a ‘non-smoker’ basis. Bear in mind that if you do change providers, they may exclude pre-existing conditions from your cover.

Here at Shepherds Friendly Society, we offer Over 50s Life Insurance which is guaranteed life cover with no medical required, and the option to receive added funeral benefits. If you live in the UK and are aged between 50 and 80 then you are guaranteed to be accepted when you apply. Find out more facts about Over 50s Life Insurance.

The amount your family will receive when they claim on your life insurance depends on your age, whether or not you smoke, and the amount you choose to pay as a monthly premium. Typically, the younger you are the higher the amount you are insured for will be, and if you don’t smoke you’ll get a higher level of cover too.

[1] https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/statistics-on-smoking/statistics-on-smoking-england-2020
[2] https://www.nhsinform.scot/stopping-smoking/calculate-my-savings/
[3] https://www.moneysupermarket.com/life-insurance/life-insurance-for-smokers/
[4] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/smoking-and-cancer/how-does-smoking-cause-cancer
[5] https://ash.org.uk/resources/view/addressing-common-myths-about-vaping-putting-the-evidence-in-context
[6] https://www.forbes.com/uk/advisor/life-insurance/life-insurance-for-smokers-and-vapers/
[7] https://www.which.co.uk/money/insurance/life-insurance-and-protection/life-insurance-for-smokers-ajnOu3w9h8hl#if-you-quit-smoking-will-your-life-insurance-policy-become-cheaper