FAQ's - Smoking and Life Insurance
11 Mar 2020
Smoking might seem passé, but lighting up is still a daily ritual for an estimated 7.2 million adults, according to the ONS. Over and above that, Action on Smoking and Health estimates that 3.6 million Brits now vape.
Yes, the picture is improving - since 2011 the number of smokers has decreased by 5%. But if you classify vapers as smokers (which the vast majority of insurers do), then the UK’s adult smoking population still stands at around 11m. In a country of 52.5m adults, that’s circa 20%.
March 11th is No Smoking Day, organised by the British Heart Foundation, and a perfect time to talk about the relationship between life insurance and smoking, which remains the single biggest variable when applying for cover.
So here's a few frequently asked questions (and answers). If you need more, please call 0800 316 7253.
What is a ‘smoker’?
People get a little miffed at this, but for the purposes of life insurance, you’re classed as a smoker if you’ve had even one cigarette in the last 12 months.
You might have been a few drinks deep when you had a one-off fag … but for one year hence that cheeky puff will define you as a smoker.
But there's a difference between one-a-day and 50, right?
Sure, there's big differences in experience, health and wellbeing within the smoking population.
But in life insurance terms there’s no give for how many cigarettes (or cigars or puffs on a pipe or vape) a person has in a given day, week or month.
You may be one of the few people who smokes one cig per month, but in virtually all cases a smoker is a smoker is a smoker.
How much more do smokers pay for life insurance?
Naturally this varies based on other lifestyle factors, but according to Confused.com, premiums typically cost a third more for a 30-year-old smoker, and up to twice as much for a smoker aged 50.
Very simply, the increase is because smokers are more likely to claim on an insurance policy due to suffering an early death, or a critical illness.
What about vaping and life insurance?
Despite loose NHS claims that vaping is up to 95% less harmful than cigarettes, it’s still a new invention and most insurers don’t yet have the confidence – or the data – to step out and classify vaping as anything other than smoking.
For a handful of other insurers, there’s at least some wiggle room.
Let’s say you do vape, but the liquids or cartridges you put into your e-cig don’t contain nicotine. If that’s you, a few big insurers will class you as a non-smoker for the purposes of life insurance.
If you vape with nicotine-based liquids or cartridges, one insurer classes that as a lesser form of smoking. In life insurance terms, you won’t be viewed as a non-smoker or a smoker but something in-between - and your premium will reflect that.
With vaping it gets a little complicated so please get in touch if you want to find out more.
Is the vaping situation likely to change soon?
There are two views on this.
Yes - because research is ongoing at a health-data level, vaping’s risks are becoming clearer. When there’s more information to go on, insurers can accurately assess the metrics and probabilities associated with vaping. With that, some may change their stance and indeed a handful already have.
The other way to look at it is …
No - vaping hit the mainstream in 2014 and that’s nowhere near long enough to gauge its long-term health impact. Even the most seasoned vapers have only been at it for six or so years.
Sure, a few mavericks are doing something different but the majority of insurers will, for some time yet, stick to the party line: vaping is smoking.
What if I lie about smoking on my application?
You wouldn’t be the first. In our 2019 Let’s Start Talking report, LifeSearch found that one in eight of us has lied (at least once) to a financial institution - and smoking is the commonest fib when speaking to life insurers.
That said, it’s not a good idea. If you’re a smoker and you lie about it, then 1) you may be found out if an insurer requests your medical data or insists on a random health test as part of the underwriting process. 2) If a critical issue arises from your smoking - let’s say you get cancer - then at best your cover won’t pay out in full, and at worst it won’t pay out at all.
Honesty is always the best policy when applying for life insurance. If you’re that person who has had only one or two cigarettes in the last year, our advisers will probably suggest that you phone back when you’re 12 months smoke-free, such is the difference in premiums between smokers and non-smokers.
What if I’ve given up?
The good news is that if you took out life insurance cover as a smoker, and have subsequently quit, we’d love to look at reducing your premiums.
As above, you'll need to be smoke-free for at least a year and the switch to cheaper premiums may not be automatic: some insurers allow you to simply switch to non-smoker rates, others will want to go back to the start - a new underwriting and risk assessment process.
Either way, it’s a better outlook for you, your health and most likely your premiums.
Any more for any more?
If this quick guide on smoking and life insurance hasn’t helped, or you have a more specific question, then please reach out and ask - it's why we’re here.
Call us on 0800 316 7253
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll call you back.
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