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Life insurance for smokers

If you’re one of the 6.9 million adults in the UK who smoke, the good news is that you can still get life insurance.

The bad news is that it might cost more than it would as a non-smoker because smokers are more likely to die at a younger age. Find out how smoking affects life cover.

If you’re one of the 6.9 million adults in the UK who smoke, the good news is that you can still get life insurance.

The bad news is that it might cost more than it would as a non-smoker because smokers are more likely to die at a younger age. Find out how smoking affects life cover.

Written by
Faith Archer
Insurance expert
Last Updated
21 NOVEMBER 2022
5 min read
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How does smoking affect life insurance premiums? 

Fundamentally, the cost of insurance is based on how likely you are to claim. If you’re highly unlikely to claim, a policy might be as cheap as chips. More chance of claiming? Your premiums will start going up.

If you’re a smoker, you’re more at risk of getting ill or dying at a younger age because of the health dangers posed by tobacco. These can include cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure and respiratory problems.

Life insurance providers are therefore more likely to have to pay out on a claim so will push up your premiums.

If you’ve already developed a health condition because of smoking, this will usually be excluded from your policy. This means your provider won’t pay out if your death is related to this condition. 

How much do smokers pay for life insurance? 

A smoker is usually charged more for life cover than a non-smoker insuring the same amount. But the exact rate you’ll have to pay will depend on a range of factors, including: 

  • Your age
  • Your general health and lifestyle
  • Your family history
  • What you smoke (for example, cigarettes, pipes, e-cigarettes)
  • How many years you’ve smoked
  • If your health has already been affected by smoking.

The cost of life insurance for a smoker could be up to double the amount paid by a non-smoker.

According to our partners at LifeSearch, for every £10 a non-smoker pays each month, smokers could expect to pay between £1 and £10 extra. A younger smoker in their 20s probably won’t see as big a rise as an older smoker in their 50s. 

Different insurers may not charge so much extra, so it’s always worth shopping around to compare prices. Just make sure you compare like-for-like products with the same level of cover.

Do I need to tell my insurance provider that I smoke? 

Yes, you definitely should. When you apply for a life insurance product, the provider will ask if you are a smoker or have ever smoked. 

It’s essential to answer any questions honestly and accurately. Don’t be tempted to say you’ve never smoked just to get cheaper life insurance, it’s not worth the risk. If your provider finds out you haven’t been entirely truthful about your smoking habits, they could reduce or refuse any pay out after you die, hitting your family hard.

What if I only smoke occasionally? 

If you only have the occasional cigarette on a night out with friends, you might not consider yourself a smoker. But you could still be seen as a smoker in the eyes of insurance providers.

As a general rule, insurance providers tend to lump all smokers together, so whether you smoke a packet a day or just have the occasional puff on a cigarette, it’s all the same to them.

But nowadays, premiums are starting to reflect the fact that some people only smoke socially and therefore aren’t so much of a health risk. Definitions of what a ‘regular’ smoker is can vary between providers, so it’s important to check the small print.

Do I need to tell my insurance provider if I vape? 

Yes, most insurance providers will class vaping in the same bracket as smoking. That’s because the jury’s still out on whether it’s as harmful as smoking in the long term, despite all the ads suggesting e-cigarettes and vapes are a safer alternative to tobacco products. 

As more research is done into the effects of vaping, this position may change. But, for now, life insurance premiums for vapers are on a par with smokers. And this is the same if you chew nicotine gum or use nicotine patches. That said, it’s possible to find providers who take a more lenient view of vaping and will offer cheaper life insurance.

Top tip

When applying for life cover, remember that insurers take a broad view of smoking. Smoking can include not just cigarettes and cigars, but pipes, roll ups, e-cigarettes and nicotine replacements, such as patches and gum. Be honest on your application to prevent any problems later.  

Will quitting smoking reduce the cost of life insurance? 

Giving up smoking doesn’t only help your health, it could also make a big dent in the cost of your life insurance. But you won’t qualify for cheaper rates straight away. Typically, you’ll need to have stopped using all nicotine products for at least 12 months before you’ll see your premiums drop.  

Before reducing your insurance bill, your provider may want to see evidence that you’ve quit the habit for good. For instance, they might ask your permission to consult your GP about your overall health. In some cases, you may have to provide a chest X-ray or a saliva or urine sample to prove that you’re nicotine-free. 

By quitting smoking, you may be able to reduce your monthly premiums by up to 50%, LifeSearch says.

How can I find the best life insurance as a smoker? 

Start a life insurance quote with us to see if you can save on a policy that will suit your circumstances and support the people you love. By paying a bit extra, you could also add critical illness cover to your policy. This could pay out following the diagnosis of a serious illness listed on the policy, such as cancer, stroke or heart attack, but be careful to check what you’re not covered for. This is doubly important if you’re a smoker.

Frequently asked questions

Will I have to undergo a medical if I smoke?

Sometimes when you apply for life insurance, the provider might ask permission to see your GP records or ask you to undergo a medical exam. This could be in the form of a saliva, urine or blood sample to test the levels of nicotine in your system.

Can smokers get no-exam life insurance?

Yes, guaranteed acceptance is a type of life insurance where you don’t have to provide medical information or answer questions about your health. This could be an option for smokers who may otherwise have difficulty getting life cover. But life insurance with no medical will have limitations. The maximum pay out on death is significantly lower than a standard policy and premiums are usually much higher.

How will smoking affect a joint life insurance policy?

A joint life insurance policy covers two lives under one premium, so if one person smokes, it will push up the cost.

Joint policies can be a way of saving money on life cover, but if one of you is a smoker, it may well be cheaper to take out two separate policies.

What if I start smoking after I’ve taken out life insurance?

Your policy is based on the information you gave at the time of your application. So, in theory, you shouldn’t have to tell your provider if you start smoking. But if you die within the first two years of the policy, your provider has the right to investigate the cause of your death. If it’s found to be related to smoking, your policy could be invalidated. In fact, many providers make it part of their terms and conditions that you must tell them if you take up the habit.

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