Life insurance for smokers can cost much more than it does for non-smokers.
The reasoning is simple. When you take out life insurance, you’re essentially betting against a life insurance company that you will die before they have made their money.
Smoking increases the risk of you dying young, so you need to bet more to get the same payout.
Vaping, according to organisations like the Royal Society, Public Health England and Cancer Research, is at least 95% safer than smoking. So it stands to reason that vapers will get better rates, right?
Not necessarily. Some insurance companies treat all nicotine products the same as smoking. The good news is that progress is being made, with some companies starting to offer better rates.
To learn more about the best options for vapers, we spoke to insurance broker Reassured.
How much does smoking affect life insurance?
There is no doubt that smoking has a significant impact on the cost of your life insurance premiums. What’s more, this loading of premiums for smokers accelerates as we age.
This is because premiums are calculated based on the level of perceived risk you pose to the insurer, (or put another way, the likelihood of a payout) and as you get older statistically the health risks increase.
The table below shows how much more a smoker will pay compared to a non-smoker and how the cost escalates as we age. Quotes are based on a level term policy with £100,000 cover, over a 20-year term.
Is vaping classed as smoking for life insurance?
In the world of life insurance, generally speaking, if you have smoked or used any replacement products in the past year, you will be classed as a smoker on the application. This includes the use of vapes or e-cigarettes, as well as nicotine patches, mints and gum.
Therefore, someone who smoked cigarettes would be charged the same as someone who vaped. This is thought to be because insurers do not fully understand the long-term impact of using such products on your health, (although government research suggests vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking).
However, in recent times as underwriters develop a greater understanding of the impact of vaping and the health benefits over smoking, things appear to be changing.
For example, Moneyworth Life Insurance state that they can quote vapers up to 50% off premiums vs a smoker.
As the life insurance industry advances and insurers do more to attract the 2.7m (and growing) UK vapers their underwriting criteria is evolving too. As a result, there is less of a black and white classification and therefore it is more important than ever to compare quotes from multiple insurers.
Will you be asked if you vape during the insurance application process. If not, should you tell the company anyway?
Yes, you will be asked if you vape during the application process for life insurance and it is important that you are open and transparent with your answers.
If you state that you are a non-smoker/non-vaper and you do in fact vape it could, in a worst-case scenario, invalidate your policy, rendering your selfless investment a waste of money and more importantly leaving your loved ones financially exposed.
The exception to this rule can be with nicotine-free vaping, as some insurers only ask questions relating to products containing nicotine. In this scenario, you could correctly be classified as a non-smoker.
If you die, how would the life insurance company know you vaped?
If you were to pass away, an insurer could evoke what’s called the contestability clause to establish if the cause of death was related to your smoking habits. They also have the right to request your medical records to acquire a greater understanding of your medical history, if required.
As part of the application process, an insurer may ask you to undergo a medical screening or have a cotinine test (either blood, urine or saliva) to establish if you smoke/vape.
Legal & General are estimated to screen between 15-20% of their applicants, whilst Aviva require around 15% of their applicants to have a medical and/or provide a GP report.
What are the potential consequences if you are not upfront about vaping?
The worst-case scenario is that not being upfront about your vaping could invalidate your policy. In insurance, this is referred to as non-disclosure.
In fact, if you are proven to have lied to the insurer, not only could you be declined cover but you could also be at risk of committing insurance fraud.
Does it make a difference to insurers if you vape nicotine-free e-liquids?
Although things appear to be changing, historically, insurers have viewed nicotine as nicotine, regardless of how you consume it. However, if you use nicotine-free e-liquids you will be able to secure lower premiums from certain insurers.
Some insurers only ask whether you have used nicotine products during the application process. Therefore, for these insurers, you will not need to declare your vaping if you have not used nicotine within the last year - however, this is not always the case, so it is important to read all questions carefully when getting quotes.
Again, the key is to shop around and compare quotes, because insurers’ underwriting criteria and classifications can vary.
You can do this quickly and easily by using an online comparison site or an FCA regulated broker.
How does switching from smoking to vaping affect life insurance? If it does, how long after switching does it make a difference?
Generally speaking, insurers require you to have changed your habits for at least 12 months before they would consider a reclassification of your smoking/vaping status.
For example, if you smoke but have quit, an insurer will not regard you as a non-smoker until you have abstained for at least 12 months, (although this threshold depends on the insurer).
If you have an existing life insurance policy and were a smoker at the point of application, but have switched to vaping, it is worth calling your current insurer to inform them of your new status. They may consider reducing your monthly premium.
On occasions, it can even be more cost-effective in the above scenario to cancel your existing policy and take out new cover with your new found status, especially if you have switched to nicotine free e-liquids.
So is it worth telling your insurance company you have switched from smoking to vaping before 12 months have lapsed?
Absolutely, it is always worthwhile informing your insurer if you switch from smoking to vaping as it is possible that they could reduce your premium. Even if they do not amend your monthly premium, it may be the trigger you need to cancel that policy and take out more favourable cover elsewhere.
What are the most vape-friendly life insurance companies in the UK?
New providers such as Reviti recently announced that they were the first to offer vapers sizeable discounts on their life insurance premiums - up to 15% off. Future Proof also claim to be able to provide significant savings for vapers of up to 50% for those who have not smoked for 12 months or more. As mentioned above, Moneyworth also offer more favourable terms to vapers, so there are a growing number of options.
As well as the specific insurer you choose, the policy type can also have a bearing. For example, over 50 plans do not ask any medical questions during the application. Alternatively, if you need life insurance specifically to cover funeral costs (average cost of dying in the UK £9,263 - SunLife) you could choose a prepaid funeral plan instead, which guarantees acceptance and does not ask your smoking status.
What if I start vaping/smoking after I’ve taken life insurance out?
If you start vaping or smoking during your policy term you are not obligated to inform your insurer as your premiums are confirmed at the point of application, however it could be in your best interest to do so.
If you’ve begun smoking and pass away within the first two years of your policy term, the insurer has the right to investigate your passing.
Which life insurance companies are behind the times?
To be completely honest the entire industry has been slow to adapt to the growth of vaping and other smoking alternatives, rather lazily grouping applicants together with normal smokers.
However, this appears to be changing with the emergence of smaller specialists like Reviti Life Insurance and Moneyworth offering reduced premiums. And in time, I would expect the major providers to change their stance too.
- Compare multiple quotes from different insurers.
- Always be open and honest on your application.
- Consider using a broker to compare quotes, help with the application process and to write your policy in trust.
- Ask your insurer how they classify nicotine free e-liquids.
- If your smoking status changes contact your insurer, or consider a new policy.
Aside from the cost of your life cover, the health benefits of switching to vaping cannot be underestimated. And whilst insurers have been slow to catch up with our changing habits, it appears that things are changing.
A big thanks to Reassured for taking the time to answer our questions.