How does smoking affect life insurance?

Can you get life insurance for smokers? What if you’ve quit smoking? And what about smoking vs vaping? We’ve got the answers…

We know that smoking invites health concerns, and insurance companies know it too. Like your parents and your doctor, they see smoking as a significant health risk.

But all is not lost – you can still get cover.

And if you give up smoking (we’ll come to that), not only will you be in better health (we’ll come to that, too), but you’ll probably pay quite a lot less for your life insurance.

Here’s how it works…

Can I get life insurance as a smoker?

Absolutely. In fact, many successful life insurance applications are made by smokers, so not only is it possible, it happens often. 

But there is a catch. Your smoker status will have an influence on an insurer’s decision to offer you cover and will, in all likelihood, affect your premium (how much you pay for your cover).

In a nutshell, if you are a smoker your premium is likely to be higher than a non-smoker.

In fact, if you look at the example below, a non-smoker could pay as little as half of what a smoker applying for the same cover would.

Smoking graphic

What happens when you give up smoking?

Who hasn't considered the benefits of not smoking? And what are the health benefits of quitting?

Well, they're more considerable than you might think. In fact, according to the NHS, a smoker's excess risk of a heart attack reduces by half after only 12 months of being nicotine-free.

Stop smoking timeline

So what does quitting smoking mean for your life insurance premiums?

Well, despite your increased lung capacity, your insurance company may still consider you a smoker, for a while at least.

Calculating your premium will likely depend on when you last had nicotine.

Some insurers will reduce the premium after only 12 months as a non-smoker, but many will still charge you higher premiums for up to five years after you stop smoking or using nicotine.

It really depends on your circumstances.

And it's important to be honest about your past. The vast majority of life insurance claims are paid, but the minority that aren't are often declined due to withholding medical information, such as a history of smoking.

So it pays to be completely upfront.

Is vaping the same as smoking when it comes to life insurance?

Most insurers consider vaping (as well as chewing nicotine gum or using a nicotine patch) to be the same as smoking. So the effect on premiums is likely to be the same as described above.

This could change in the future – the jury is still out on the long term effects of vaping – but, for now at least, insurers are proceeding with caution.

Insurers may have different interpretations of what constitutes a smoker (or vaper), so it is always worth checking before you apply.

Life insurance with critical illness cover

Let's say you're a smoker on the look-out for some life insurance – perhaps because you're applying for a mortgage, for example.

It might be worth considering critical illness cover, alongside life insurance, giving yourself one great big wall of protection.

Critical illness works by providing financial support – in the form of a lump sum payout – following diagnosis of a serious illness, such as a stroke, cancer or a heart attack.

Anything else?

There's no getting away from it, if you're a smoker looking into getting life insurance, you may pay more for your cover.

But all is not lost: you can still get covered and, if you want to give up smoking, quitting has (apparently) never been easier. A wealth of support and advice is available to help you be rid of the habit.

And doing so can provide a healthy boost to your wallet.

If you're in a couple, you may also wish to consider joint life insurance (which can be cheaper than two single policies, but only pays out once).

What now?

Find out more about Zurich life insurance and critical illness cover

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