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How do smoking and vaping affect life insurance?

It’s no surprise that insurance providers view smokers as high risk. But does vaping count as tobacco use for insurance?

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. But does vaping count as tobacco use for insurance?

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.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
12 MAY 2023
4 min read
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Does vaping count as tobacco use for insurance purposes?

On the whole, yes. Most insurance providers will class vaping as tobacco use in the same way as smoking. That means you could 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.

One report published by the World Health Organisation suggests 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 healthcare bodies), nicotine is nicotine. It 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. For example, if you vape with a liquid that contains no nicotine at all, some may class you as a non-smoker. It depends on the individual insurance provider.

So, whether you already have a life insurance policy or are looking for one, check the terms of each policy with care.

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 6.6 million adults in the UK smoke, with 3.3 million vapers, 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. It contributed to more than 74,600 deaths in 2020 in England, according to NHS figures.

It’s easy to see why insurance providers see those who smoke as being a higher risk when they’re working out a premium.

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’.

Anyone can make an honest mistake, but the law states that if you deliberately or carelessly withhold information or mislead your insurance provider, then your policy may be invalid.

This means that if you were to die and it was found out that you were a smoker, there’s a real risk your beneficiaries would be turned down for a claim.

How does smoking affect my life insurance premium?

Statistically, smokers are at risk of suffering from preventable ill health or dying at a younger age. For example, there were 506,100 hospital admissions attributable to smoking in 2020, according to the NHS.

That means life insurance providers are more likely to have to pay out on a claim if you’re a smoker, which is why you’re charged a higher premium.

When working out how much to charge you for life insurance, providers will look at:

  • What you smoke (for example, cigarettes, a pipe or 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.

If you quit smoking, when are you considered a non-smoker?

Typically, you’ll need to have been off all nicotine products for at least 12 months before insurance providers will consider you a non-smoker. 

As well as making you healthier, quitting smoking can reduce the cost of life insurance premiums. But you won’t be able to amend an existing policy if you stop smoking. If you meet the provider’s definition of a non-smoker, you’ll need to take out a new policy with them instead.

Before offering you a cheaper premium, your provider might want to see evidence that you’ve quit the habit for good and are 100% nicotine-free. This may involve:

  • A doctor’s report
  • A chest x-ray
  • A saliva or urine sample.

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 check with your provider first.

Once you’ve let them know about your new status, you may need to have 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?

Yes, it’s worth letting them know, especially if you’re using a vape liquid that doesn’t contain nicotine.

Whether it will make a difference to the eventual cost of your premiums depends on the insurance provider. Some class all types of vaping as smoking, while others may have different rules regarding nicotine-free e-cigs.

It’s important to check your policy to find out if this could affect your premium.

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

Insurance providers don’t reward vaping because the long-term effects aren’t yet known.

You might find providers who take a more lenient view, but most will class it in the same bracket as smoking.

As more research is carried out, the consensus on vaping might change in the future.

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

When you apply for life insurance cover, your life insurance provider will ask if you’re a smoker or have ever smoked.

As part of your application, you might also 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 for your medical records (with your consent), which may identify you as a smoker.

It’s always best to be honest about your smoking habits as a claim could be rejected if you’re not.

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

There’s no particular type of life cover that’s best for smokers. What’s right for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Options include:

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 that’s listed in your policy, such as cancer, a stroke or a heart attack.

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

You can start by comparing life insurance quotes with Compare the Market. We’ll ask you a few questions about your health and lifestyle, including your smoking or vaping habits.

Once we have your details, we can send you quotes based on your needs.

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Anna McEntee - Insurance comparison expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

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