Smokers & Life Insurance
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When it comes to insurances, there really isn’t any point in beating about the bush, insurers see you as a higher risk of making a claim if you are a smoker. This comes from a long history of scientific evidence that suggests, that most people that smoke, are at a higher risk of developing cancer and having a shorter life expectancy. We know this is a generalisation, this isn’t the absolute way that the world works, but it is what statistics show and insurers work on probability and statistics.
Things we need to know:
- What do you smoke i.e. cigarettes, cigars, pipe?
- How long have you smoked for?
- How much do you smoke per day?
Being a smoker in itself, usually does not cause any significant concern to the insurer in terms of accepting your application, they simply automatically increase the premium for your life insurance. This is usually double the basic premium for the policy that a non-smoker can access. I know that is not going to seem great and it may well put you off wanting to look at the insurances, but it’s important to be upfront and realistic about what is and isn’t available to you.
The times that insurers are going to look at your application more closely, is if you have a medical condition that makes things even riskier if you are a smoker. This can be if you have or have had a heart condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or cancer, there are a number of other health factors that can influence their decision too.
You may currently smoke e-cigarettes and feel that this is far less risk than traditional smoking methods. Many insurers are still unsure over the long-term affects of vaping, at the moment there isn’t enough long-term research data for them to analyse, to say whether they agree that vapers are at less risk than smokers. There have been reports of e-cig users developing what is known as popcorn lung, which is closely being monitored to assess the long-term health implications of their use.
Most insurers will still consider and rate your life insurance application like you are a smoker, if you use e-cigs. However a select few can consider you as a non-smoker and it is worth seeing if they are able to accept your application at the basic premium. Do not automatically assume that they will be the best for you though, any other “risks” that you have (health, occupation, travel, sports) may be looked at more favourably by other insurers. It is always worth getting at least a few quotations so that you can then decide which insurer is right for you.
It is worth noting that if you are able to go 12 months without using any form of nicotine or e-cig, you will be classed as a non-smoker by many insurers. If you took out your policy as a smoker and have now been one year since using nicotine, then it is worth reviewing your policy, this could involve a simple cotinine test (a simple swab in your mouth) to prove to the insurer that you are now a non-smoker and reduce your premiums.
Critical illness cover pays out a cash lump sum of money, if you are diagnosed with a medical condition that is listed in the insurer’s claims set e.g. cancer, heart attack, stroke.
When you are a smoker, Critical Illness cover will be treated the same way as life insurance, your premium is going to double. Life insurance is generally quite cheap if you do not have any medical conditions and do not work in a high risk job, so the premium being doubled may not be too drastic. Critical illness cover will be different, even if you have absolutely nothing to declare on your application, as this policy type is naturally more expensive.
You are far more likely to claim on a critical illness policy than you are life insurance, which is why it is so much more expensive. So you not only see the higher price because you are having critical illness cover, you are also seeing an additional higher price for being a smoker. The three most claimed on conditions for critical illness cover are cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Being a smoker puts you at a higher risk than a non-smoker, of developing these conditions, which is why you also see the doubling of premiums with this insurance type.
Depending upon your overall health, the insurer will probably ask you more questions about any other conditions that you have. We have a number of health condition pages on the site and it can be a good idea to look at them to see how an insurer may assess your medical history. There are some conditions that, when mixed with being a smoker, makes quite a few insurers think that you are too high a risk to offer critical illness cover to. Don’t worry if that is the case, there are a lot of insurers to talk to and we also have access to specialist insurers that should be able to support your needs.
Income protection pays you a replacement of your monthly income, if you are unable to work due to ill health.
When you want income protection and are a smoker some (not at all) insurers will again your double your premiums. The insurers base their decision to do this upon the statistics that show smokers are much more likely to develop serious medical conditions that can stop you from working for at least a while e.g. cancer, heart attack, stroke.
Provided that you are in good health and are not in a high risk job, the rest of your application should go ahead quite smoothly. There are some other considerations that the insurer will want to know more about, such as if you travel outside of the UK a lot, or if you are doing any types of leisure activity that increase your risk of physical harm.
You may find that income protection is too expensive for you to consider. There is an alternative form of income replacement that you can consider that is known as Accident, Sickness and Unemployment cover. This is different to an income protection policy, as income protection has the potential to replace part of your monthly salary all the way to your retirement age (depending on the type of policy that you choose). Accident, Sickness and Unemployment is restricted to a maximum 12-24 month claim payout period. This policy will pay out if you are unable to work due to long-term injury, disability or involuntary redundancy. A key difference with this is that most Accident, Sickness and Unemployment insurance providers, do not ask about your smoker status and you being a smoker will not affect the premium that you pay. This may work well for you, cost wise it will be tempting, but it is important to note that income protection is generally a better quality contract to go for.
What is a smoker?
In insurance terms a smoker is someone that has used nicotine products in the last 12 months. This is anything nicotine based: cigarettes, chewing tobacco, gum, e-cigs. Even if you are an occasional smoker, only smoke on nights out, or last smoked 11 months ago, you are still a smoker in the insurers eyes. It may be tempting to stretch the truth and say that you aren’t a smoker, but we will recommend that you don’t do this. Touchwood it won’t happen, but if you do develop cancer and/or die and the ruling is that it was caused by your smoking, and you haven’t told the insurer that you are a smoker, your chances of making a successful claim significantly reduce.
Unhelpfully, my answer is, it depends. Many people that are smokers will get life insurance without any issues, you just need to be aware that your premiums will be higher than a non-smoker. The times where things get a bit trickier is if you have any health conditions. Insurers will be more focused on the health conditions that you have, rather than on you being a smoker. That being said if you are a smoker and have a lung condition, insurers are going to be a tad more cautious. This is something that we do all the time and if you want some advice on the best insurer for you, give us a call.
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Review by Cherith on 22nd January 2020
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