Smoking life insurance

If you smoke and you want to get life insurance, you need to tell your insurer when you first purchase your policy. While life insurance premiums are typically higher for smokers, a policy can still deliver many benefits. In this guide, we'll tell you everything you need to know about smoking life insurance.

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What is life insurance?

Life insurance is a type of insurance that pays out to your loved ones if you pass away during the length of the policy. It will also pay out if you receive a diagnosis for a terminal illness with a life expectancy of 12 months or less.

People buy life insurance for a variety of reasons. Some want to help their loved ones meet their financial commitments or leave a legacy after they've gone. For others, it's covering outstanding debts such as a mortgage or loan.

We explain what life insurance is in detail in this guide.

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Life insurance for smokers

  • There are around 6.6 million smokers in the UK - Source

If you smoke, the process of buying life insurance is slightly different, as we'll see. However, you shouldn't be put off. Smokers life insurance delivers all the benefits that it does for non-smokers. In addition, because smoking habits can lead to ill health and smoking-related illness, it's all the more essential that you have cover in place to protect your loved ones.

Can I get life insurance as a smoker?

The answer to this is a resounding yes. Insurance companies offer life insurance for smokers as they do for everyone. Insurers will not deny you a policy just because you smoke, although if you suffer from (or have experienced) smoking-related illness, they may not allow you to purchase a life insurance policy.

However, there are several differences:

  • You need to inform your insurance company of your smoker status, including what you smoke, how long for and how much you smoke per day
  • Your life insurance premiums are likely to be more expensive due to your smoking, even if you only smoke occasionally
  • During the term of your policy, you must inform your insurance company if your smoker status changes

How much more is life insurance for smokers?

Like-for-like, life insurance for smokers is noticeably more expensive than for non-smokers.

Current figures from Legal & General show that for a 20-year term life insurance policy with a cover amount of £150,000, premium prices are as follows:

For a 30-year-old:

  • Non-smoker - £8.05 per month
  • Smoker - £12.75 per month

For a 50-year-old:

  • Non-smoker - £33.38 per month
  • Smoker - £87.19 per month

That's a dramatic difference. If you're 50 and looking for life insurance, you'll pay more than double the amount in premiums if you smoke.

Why are life insurance premiums more expensive for smokers?

For insurance providers, pricing life insurance premiums is all about risk. The greater the risk of them having to pay out, the more they have to maximise their revenue from you.

Smoking comes with massive health implications. If you smoke, you're more likely to suffer from serious illness, and you're more likely to pass away at an earlier age, resulting in a life insurance claim from your dependents.

This means you're a higher-risk policyholder, which will be reflected in higher premiums.

Other factors that affect life insurance premiums

Of course, smoking isn't the only factor that insurers use to set life insurance premiums. They will also factor in:

  • Type of insurance - Whole life policies are more expensive than term life insurance
  • Cover amount - The higher you want your payout to be if you pass away, the higher the premiums you must pay while you're still around
  • Age - Age comes with increased risk, which means higher prices
  • Medical history - If you've been seriously ill in the past, your insurer will cover these increased health risks with higher charges
  • Lifestyle - As well as smoking, you'll pay higher monthly premiums if you drink heavily
  • Occupation - If you have a risky job (e.g. construction), your insurer may charge higher prices for life cover

Critical illness cover for smokers

Critical illness cover is an optional extra to life insurance offered by insurers. If you're diagnosed with a critical illness from your insurer's pre-specified list, it will pay out a percentage of your life cover. Illnesses covered generally include cancer, stroke, heart attack and more.

The benefits of this include replacing your regular income if you're unable to work while you recover.

Smokers can purchase critical illness cover. However, like life insurance for smokers, you'll find critical illness premiums are more expensive than they would be if you were a non-smoker.

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What is a smoker?

Having read this far, you're probably wondering if a life insurance provider would consider you a smoker or not, particularly if you don't smoke that often, or you don't smoke cigarettes.

How do insurance companies classify smokers?

While individual life insurance companies may differ in how they classify smokers, many insurance companies consider a smoker someone who has used any nicotine, tobacco or similar product in the last 12 months.

Products include, but are not limited to:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
  • E-Cigarettes or vape products
  • Nicotine replacement products - including patches and chewing gum

While 12 months is the standard time period, many insurance companies may go back as far as 5 years to penalise you for smoking.

Disclosing your smoking status

When you take out a life insurance policy, you'll usually be required to complete a medical questionnaire. This is where you'll need to tell your insurance company about your smoking habits.

You'll need to tell them what products you smoke, how many and how often you smoke, how long you've smoked, and any health problems you've experienced due to your smoking.

Insurers may also reserve the right to make you undergo a medical exam or nicotine test where they examine your blood, saliva or urine. So it pays to be honest.

Does it matter how much you smoke?

To be honest, no. Whether you're a pack of cigarettes a day kind of person, or you just have one occasionally on a night out, you're classified as a smoker and you will be charged bigger monthly premiums for life insurance.

If you smoke at all (or have in the last 12 months), in an insurance company's eyes, you're a smoker. So, if you're thinking of buying life insurance, it pays to quit smoking first.

What if you lie about your smoking status?

It may be tempting, if you're a smoker, not to tell your insurer that you smoke when you take out life insurance. After all, how will they ever find out?

When you fill in the forms on your life insurance application, the terms and conditions require you to be truthful and accurate to the best of your knowledge.

If you were to pass away and your loved ones made a claim, the insurance firm may investigate your answers and correlate them with your cause of death. If it turns out that you were lying, your loved ones could see the claim declined.

Even worse, if it's discovered that you lied while you're still alive, your policy will be cancelled and you may be charged with insurance fraud.

Nothing is worth that risk, so make sure you tell the truth while shopping around for life insurance quotes.

"I recently got an insurance policy through myTribe and the service was excellent from start to finish. The adviser that I spoke to was very patient and took time to explain all of the intricacies to me so that I felt confident and informed when making a decision."

by Chris Stratton - 12th May 2022
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  • Around 3.2 million adults in the UK vape - Source

While many people believe vaping is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, it is still considered part of the range of nicotine replacement products by insurance companies.

So, if you have vaped within the last 12 months, you will be classed as a smoker.

Quitting smoking

If you're classed a smoker when you take out your life insurance, most companies will class you as a smoker for the duration of the policy. Even if you totally quit smoking, your monthly premiums will still remain at the higher rate.

After 12 months, you may be able to cancel your smokers life insurance policy and take out a new policy as a non-smoker. However, as you will be older when shopping around for the new policy, you may not find as big a difference in the price.


Even if you haven't smoked for many years, you may not be able to take advantage of the lower premiums that non-smokers get for their life insurance.

If you smoked for a long period of your life (10-20 years, for example), you might still be considered a higher risk policyholder, even if you haven't touched a cigarette in years. This is because there are health implications to smoking that never go away.

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Changing your smoking status on your life insurance policy

Things change in life, and you may have decided to start smoking or stop smoking during the term of your life insurance cover.

If you stop smoking

Even though you may not see your premiums reduced, it's still a good idea to tell your insurer if you stop smoking (and you know it's for good this time).

However, after 12 months, it may also be a good idea to get some new life insurance quotes to see if you could switch to a policy with cheaper premiums.

If you start smoking

If you start smoking after you take out a life policy, the first thing you should do is tell your insurer.

They may decide to charge you a higher premium, but failure to disclose your new habit could lead to disaster if you were to pass away. Your loved ones may not receive the payout when they claim.

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Life insurance tips for smokers

Here are some tips for getting the right smoker life insurance policy for you:

  • Get a wide range of life insurance quotes from various providers to find the right policy for you at the best price
  • If you want something to spur you on to quit smoking, remember that if you can stay clean for 12 months, you may be able to get more affordable life insurance
  • Even if you have no plans to quit, you can still take advantage of the benefits of life insurance. Take out a policy sooner rather than later, as it's more affordable the younger you are
  • If you're over 50, you can get a specialist over 50s life insurance policy with no medical exam and no questionnaire. Guaranteed acceptance whether you smoke or not

Which policies are best in 2023?

If you're keen to know which life insurance policies and providers are best this year, please read this recently updated guide: Best Life Insurance 2023

Disclaimer: This information is general and what is best for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Please speak with a financial adviser or do your own research before making a decision.

Founder and Editor

As the founder and editor of myTribe Insurance, the role of Chris Steele is to ensure that the information we provide is of the highest quality and value to those who read it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does cigar smoking count as smoking for life insurance purposes?

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I'm afraid so. If you smoke cigars, even only once in a while, you'll be classified as a smoker for insurance purposes. The same goes for e-cigarettes, vapes, pipes or any other way of ingesting nicotine.

I consider myself an occasional smoker, do I have to tell my insurance company?

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The threshold where you stop being an occasional smoker and become a true smoker may vary between insurers.

If you're an occasional smoker, even if you only have one cigarette a year on your birthday, it's still worth telling your life insurance provider, or being upfront about it when you shop around for quotes. Failure to do so could see your claim being refused if you pass away.

I smoke, but my partner doesn't, should we get a joint life insurance policy?

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Joint life insurance policies are popular as you can cover two partners at the same time and it often works out more affordable than two individual life policies.

A joint policy covers only pays out once, usually to the first partner to pass away. This leaves the surviving partner without life insurance cover. In this situation, they typically buy an individual policy.

Because a joint policy only pays out once, if one partner is a smoker, it will affect the premiums you pay. You are likely to see higher prices to reflect the increased risk of one partner's smoking habit.

In this case, it may be worth investigating separate life insurance policies, rather than purchasing life insurance together.