How do smoking and vaping affect life insurance?

It’s no surprise that insurance providers view smokers as high risk. Our clear guide will explain the difference between smoking and vaping when it comes to life insurance, and how it affects the cost of your cover. 

It’s no surprise that insurance providers view smokers as high risk. Our clear guide will explain the difference between smoking and vaping when it comes to life insurance, and how it affects the cost of your cover. 

Mubina Pirmohamed
Life insurance expert
4
minute read
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Posted 24 MAY 2021

How often do I need to smoke to be classified as a smoker?

For insurance purposes, if you’ve used any tobacco products in the past year, including nicotine replacement products, you’re classed as a smoker. It doesn’t matter whether you smoke a packet a day or have the occasional puff on a cigar. You’re still a smoker as far as an insurance provider is concerned.

Around 6.9 million adults in the UK smoke, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics. Although this figure has dropped significantly over the past decade, smoking is still a leading cause of preventable death in this country, contributing to more than 90,000 deaths a year. So it’s easy to see why insurance providers see those who smoke as being a higher risk compared to those who don’t, when they’re working out a premium. 

Is vaping considered to be smoking for insurance purposes?

On the whole, yes. Most insurance providers will class vaping as the same as smoking. So, you could still invalidate your policy if you tick the ‘non-smoker’ box on your life insurance policy and it turns out you’ve been using e-cigarettes.  
 
Off the back of a 2015 report by Public Health England, which suggested e-cigarette smoking was 95% less harmful than the traditional use of tobacco, there have been far less positive reports. These have included reports from the likes of the World Health Organisation that suggest e-cigarettes can contribute to an increased risk of long-term ailments including cancer and heart disease, compared to non-smokers. 
 
In the eyes of an insurance provider (and health care bodies), nicotine is nicotine and it really doesn’t matter where it comes from, it’s still bad for you. That said, not all insurance providers take a dim view of vaping. A vape liquid which contains no nicotine may be different, for example. So, whether you already have a policy or are looking for one, check the terms of each individual quote with care. For most life insurance providers to consider you a true ‘non-smoker’, you need to be nicotine-free for at least 12 months. 

How does smoking affect my life insurance premium?

Regardless of your age or whether you’ve been a short-term or long-term smoker, being classed as a smoker will make a big difference to how much you pay for life insurance.  
 
Statistically, smokers are more at risk of suffering from ill health or dying at a younger age, which means life insurance providers are more likely to have to pay out on a claim. That explains why you’re charged a higher premium if you’re a smoker. 
 
It’s estimated that for a 30-year-old smoker, premiums will be around a third higher, while for a 50-year-old it could be up to double the cost of non-smokers of the same age. 
 
When working out how much to charge you for life insurance, providers will look at: 

  • What you smoke (for example, cigarettes, pipe, e-cigarettes) 
  • How many years you’ve smoked 
  • Your overall lifestyle and physical fitness 
  • If your health has already been affected by smoking  

Each provider will have its own criteria for assessing you but, in some cases, the amount you smoke will affect the cost of your premium. For example, an occasional social vaper might not pay as much as a chain smoker. 

What if I don’t tell an insurance provider that I smoke or vape?

This really isn’t a good idea, even if you only smoke now and then. Failing to inform your insurance provider that you smoke or vape is classed as ‘material misrepresentation’.

If you were to die and it was found that you were a smoker, the insurance provider may well refuse to pay out on a life insurance claim. In that situation, your best-case scenario would be that an insurance provider would pay a smaller amount. But there’s a very real risk that your beneficiaries will be completely turned down for a claim.

I’ve quit smoking, will this affect my life insurance?

As well as making you healthier, quitting smoking can reduce the cost of life insurance premiums. But you won’t be able to amend smoking terms midway through your policy, which means you’ll need to take out a new policy instead. Typically you’ll need to have been off all nicotine products for at least 12 months, before you qualify for any cheaper rates.  

Before offering you a cheaper premium, your provider might want to see evidence that you’ve quit the habit for good. This may involve having to provide a doctor’s report, having a chest X-ray or providing a saliva or urine sample to prove you’re nicotine-free.

Frequently asked questions

When should I tell my insurance provider I have given up smoking?

Usually, insurance providers will need you to have quit smoking for at least 12 months before they’ll class you as a non-smoker, but it’s best to check with them first. Once you’ve let them know about your new status, you may have to take part in a medical test and provide a doctor’s report before you can take out a non-smoking policy. 

Should I tell my insurance provider I have switched to e-cigarettes?

Most insurance providers still class e-cigarette users as smokers, because they’re still nicotine products. But if you’re using a vape liquid that contains no nicotine, your provider may have different rules. It’s important to check the terms of your policy to find out if it could affect your premium.  

Why don’t insurance providers reward vaping if it helps me quit smoking?

It might seem unfair that most insurance providers don’t offer discounts to people who’ve taken up e-cigarettes to quit smoking. After all, you’re doing your best to wean yourself off tobacco, right? But because the jury is still out on the long-term health effects of vaping, it’s usually still classed in the same bracket as smoking. But you could find providers who take a more lenient view. As more research is done, the general consensus on vaping might change.

How will my life insurance provider know if I am a smoker?

When you apply for life insurance cover, you’ll be asked if you’re a smoker or have ever smoked. You might need to take a medical exam, which will test for a variety of things including nicotine in your system. Your insurance provider may also ask your GP to show them your medical records (with your consent), which may identify you as a smoker. 

While it might be tempting to say you’re a non-smoker to get cheaper life insurance, especially if you only smoke very occasionally, honesty is always the best policy.

Ultimately, if you lie on your policy application about being a non-smoker, your policy may be void upon your death. 

What happens if I start smoking or vaping after I get life insurance?

Your policy is based on the information you provide at the time of the application, but a few providers might ask you to tell them if you start smoking after you’ve taken out the policy. However, they can’t raise your premium, and a claim would still be valid. But it’s always best to check your policy carefully to be sure you have the cover you need. 

What type of life insurance should I get if I smoke?

The type of life cover that’s right for you will depend on your personal circumstances. There’s no particular, best type of cover for smokers. There are many options to choose from, including level-term insurance, decreasing term life insurance and over-50s cover, so it's important to compare quotes.

If you’re a smoker, it might be worth adding critical illness cover to your policy, for an extra cost. This can pay out if you’re diagnosed with a serious condition or illness like cancer, stroke or heart attack.

Where can I get a quote for life insurance as a smoker?

Life insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition, whether you’re a smoker or not. There are different types of life insurance to consider. So, you should be able to find a policy that suits your lifestyle and meets the needs of you and the people you love. Start a life insurance quote to see if you can save.

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