Life Insurance if You Smoke

Smoking doesn’t have to be a barrier to getting life insurance, but it will probably cost you more, because you’re a riskier prospect for insurers. Shopping around can help keep the price down, and quitting can make a difference too.

Holly Bennett Last updated on 02 August 2022.
Life Insurance if You Smoke

Make no bones about it, if you smoke you’re likely to pay higher life insurance premiums than if you were a non-smoker. That’s because in the eyes of providers, smoking means you’re riskier to insure.

This doesn’t have to put you off getting any protection you might need, though. Quitting for at least a year before you apply might mean you’re offered a lower price, but people who smoke can still get cover.

Can you get life insurance if you smoke?

It’s possible to get life insurance if you smoke. Many insurers offer cover to people who smoke, so you won’t necessarily be excluded from getting the protection you need for that reason alone.

Even so, it’s probably no surprise that insurers will see smokers as a higher risk to insure, because smoking is statistically bad for your health. A smoker is more likely to develop serious health conditions and die at a younger age, so insurers increase premiums for smokers to reflect that increased risk of ill health and the potential for an early claim.

A life insurance application can be declined for a number of reasons, and smoking can sometimes be one of them. Serious health conditions, a low or high BMI, your alcohol intake and your age are just a few other factors that alone or combined might contribute to an insurer not offering cover.

Does vaping or the odd cigarette count as smoking?

Most insurers classify vaping (or e-cigarettes) as smoking, even if you’re doing it to help you quit and don’t regard yourself a smoker anymore.

However, there are a few things to consider, including:

How insurers define smoking

An insurer will give its definition of a smoker when you apply for cover, and it will typically include vaping. Most e-cigarettes contain some nicotine, which is the addictive substance in tobacco products.

Along with cigarettes, cigars, pipes and e-cigarettes, even if you use nicotine replacements, such as gum, patches, sprays, lozenges and inhalers, you’ll be considered a smoker.

How often you smoke may (or may not) matter

Regardless of whether you smoke regularly or hardly ever, you will be classed as a smoker by an insurer. Whether vaping from time to time is treated the same as if you’re a heavy cigarette smoker will depend on the provider. For most, either you smoke or you don’t, but some insurers may take into account how often and what you smoke and adjust your premium to reflect that.

When you apply for cover, the insurer might ask you:

  • what you smoke
  • how often you smoke
  • how long you’ve been a smoker
  • how long it’s been since you quit smoking

If you’ve quit, how long you’ve been nicotine-free matters

To be considered a non-smoker by an insurer, you will typically need to have been free of nicotine or tobacco products for at least 12 months when you apply. With some providers, your premiums may still be affected if you’ve been an ex-smoker for longer. Always check the insurer’s exact definition when answering this question.

How much more do smokers pay for life insurance?

You can usually assume that life insurance will cost you more as a smoker. Estimates of how much more smokers pay vary, ranging from 25% more to twice or even three times as expensive for older applicants.

What life insurance will cost you and the effect of smoking on your premiums depends on a few factors, including the type of life insurance you are taking out and your age. Smoking is just a part of what insurance underwriters bear in mind.

» MORE: Quick guide to the main types of life insurance

Does quitting smoking make life insurance cheaper?

If you’ve quit smoking, it can be good for your pocket when it comes to life insurance premiums, depending on how long you have given up smoking for. If you haven’t had any nicotine or nicotine substitutes for a year or more before you apply for cover, you may be eligible for non-smoker premiums.

Of course, it’s also a positive step for your health. Just for starters, the NHS says that quitting can halve the risk of a heart attack after just a year.

If you are an ex-smoker, the insurer may ask you to have a nicotine test at the next stage of your application.

If you quit later on

If you apply for life insurance as a smoker and quit after your cover has started, your premiums won’t usually reduce for a policy you already have. You don’t need to tell your insurer that you’ve quit while your cover is in place.

If you start smoking, your premiums for an existing policy shouldn’t be affected either. It’s sensible to check the terms and conditions, though, as an insurer might ask you to let them know about this change in smoker status.

If you plan to take out an additional life insurance policy, or even cancel your current policy and take out a new one, you may benefit from non-smoker premiums. Just keep in mind that the older you are, the more life insurance costs. There are also other considerations when it comes to your premium, such as your health and lifestyle, so don’t assume it will mean cheaper cover.

» MORE: Why take out more than one life insurance policy?

What happens if you lie about smoking?

Don’t do it. While nobody wants higher premiums, hiding the truth from the insurer by saying you don’t smoke or that you smoke less often than you do is a risky business. Do your best to answer every application question accurately, and be truthful about whether or not you smoke, and how often.

If you don’t supply accurate information, if the insurer asks for more information or carries out a test and it’s revealed that you smoke, your application could be declined.

But more importantly, if you die during the policy term and it comes to light that you were a smoker when you said you weren’t – perhaps through information from your GP or the cause of death being smoking-related – it could reduce the payout amount, or the insurer may not pay out at all.

» MORE: When might a life insurance claim be rejected?

How can insurers find out that you smoke?

An insurer might arrange for you to take a test to confirm your non-smoker status. This may be a test as part of a full medical exam you are already having, or a health screening in your home with a nurse.

It will involve a blood, urine or saliva test that detects levels of nicotine, and may even pick up traces from nicotine gum. You may also be tested for cotinine, which is a substance that is produced after nicotine has been in the body and lasts longer in your system.

No matter your current situation, if you’re keen to have protection in place, you could get a quote to find out the likely cost. Remember that other factors, such as your age, health and lifestyle will have an impact on the premiums you pay; smoking is just part of what’s considered.

Comparing quotes from a few providers might help you to find the most competitive price for the cover you need.

» COMPARE: Life insurance quotes

If you’re looking to give up smoking, a free NHS Quit Smoking app offers support and information, including updates on how much money you’re saving as you quit. The NHS also provides free stop smoking services throughout the UK.

Image source: Getty Images

About the author:

Holly champions clear, jargon-free writing. She’s been creating finance content for leading organisations for over 10 years. Read more

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