Health insurance for smokers

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Does smoking affect health insurance premiums?

Smokers have a much greater risk of developing health issues, so most insurers will increase premiums for anyone who smokes.

The amount you smoke, and how long you’ve smoked for, will determine what health insurance you can buy - and it can mean paying twice as much for your cover.

Age and fitness are also factors, so the younger and more active you are as a smoker, the more affordable your health cover will be.

What are the effects of smoking on the body?

Smoking can affect you from top to toe, with the chemicals you inhale able to pass into your blood and spread through your body.

Over time, tar will settle in your lungs and start to cause damage, which can make you short of breath and feel tired. 

The carbon dioxide you inhale affects your blood cells. This stops them from properly carrying oxygen around your body, which can put stress on your heart.

Your appearance can also be affected - smoking is more likely to cause fat to be stored around your waist, and it can prematurely age your skin by between 10 and 20 years.

How does smoking affect your health?

Many of the chemicals you breathe in when you smoke are poisonous and can cause a number of health problems. 

The health risks from smoking include:

  1. Causing at least 15 different types of cancer

    Your risk of developing cancer is affected by how much you smoke in a day, and how long you’ve been smoking for

  2. Damaging your heart and blood

    Smoking increases your risk of developing blood clots, heart disease, high blood pressure and having a heart attack

  3. Doubling your risk of having a stroke

    Smoking can reduce the oxygen levels in your blood and raise your blood pressure, which increases chances of a stroke

  4. Developing diabetes

    The damage to your cells from smoking can increase your risk of becoming resistant to insulin

  5. Damaging your lungs

    Smoking can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, and make respiratory conditions like asthma much worse

  6. Affecting fertility

    If you smoke it can take you longer to conceive and can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy

  7. Causing premature death

    On average, smoking can reduce your life expectancy by 10 to 15 years

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What are the benefits of stopping smoking?

It’s never too late to stop smoking and the health benefits of doing this start almost immediately:

  • Your risk of heart attack is reduced by half after just 12 months of being nicotine-free.
  • Your circulation improves in a matter of weeks, and across three to nine months your breathing will get easier and your lung function will increase by up to 10%.
  • After ten years, you’ll have reduced your chances of developing lung cancer by half
  • Being nicotine free for 15 years means your risk of heart attack is the same as someone who’s never smoked.

Who’s classed as a smoker?

Insurance providers typically class a smoker as someone who’s used tobacco products, including nicotine replacement patches and e-cigarettes, in the past 12 months.

Even if you’re just using nicotine gum, insurers will still see you as a greater risk because it means you haven’t completely kicked the habit yet.

Some insurers will require you to have completely given up for five years before they’ll count you as a non-smoker.

Do smokers pay more for health insurance?

Yes, smokers usually have to pay more for health insurance. 

This is because smoking puts you at a greater risk of having health problems, so there’s a much higher likelihood of you claiming.

The difference in premium between a smoker and a non-smoker can vary between 30% and 50% depending on the insurer. 

What if I lie about smoking to save money on insurance?

When you’re in the process of applying for health insurance, you’ll need to answer questions about your health, some of which will be about smoking.

Although it might be tempting to leave information out to try and reduce your premium, If you’re not truthful about your smoking habits, this could invalidate your policy.

If your policy is cancelled as a result, you’ll have to declare it on any future applications which could make it much more expensive and difficult to buy cover.

How do health insurance companies know if you smoke?

Even if you haven’t declared that you’re a smoker, the answers you provide about your health can indicate to your insurer that you use tobacco.

To be sure, sometimes insurers will ask for a urine or saliva sample to test for traces of nicotine and they may also check with your GP about your medical history.

If you make a claim on your health insurance, your insurer won’t pay out if it’s discovered that you’ve not supplied accurate information – so it pays to be honest.

What if I started or stopped smoking after getting health insurance?

If you change your smoking habits once you’ve taken out your health insurance policy you should tell your provider.

Starting to smoke without letting your insurer know may invalidate your policy. Your premium might increase to reflect the greater risk to your health.

Some insurers will reduce your premium once you’ve been a strict non- smoker, and not used any nicotine products or replacements, for 12 months in a row. But you may be asked for proof of this.

Depending on your provider, you might still be charged higher premiums for up to five years after you’ve stopped smoking.

How long do you have to quit smoking for health insurance?

Typically, you’ll need to have completely stopped smoking (and not be using any nicotine replacements) for at least 12 months before you might receive any reduction in premiums.

You can still take out cover even if you are a smoker, but your premiums will be a lot higher.

Health insurance could help you get treatment sooner.

In August 2021, there were 5.45m people on NHS waiting lists, according to The BBC.

The average waiting list time was 11.6 weeks according to The NHS.

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Frequently asked questions

While your health insurance probably won’t cover treatment to help you stop smoking, there are a number of resources and services available from the NHS.

Along with professional advice, specially designed treatments can help you to quit, which include nicotine replacement therapy. 

You can usually get patches and medicines to help you give up on prescription through your GP, pharmacist or local stop smoking service.

No, your health insurance won’t pay for this but you can get these patches and other nicotine replacement therapy options through the NHS.

The cost of these won’t be covered by your health insurance, but they also won’t be covered by the NHS, so you’ll need to buy e-cigarettes yourself.

However, as they’re more effective than some other treatments (although may still carry some long-term risk), they can save you money in the long run. 

If you’re inhaling nicotine-free vapour, or they’ve allowed you to stop smoking completely,

e-cigarettes and vaping products can ultimately help to reduce the cost of your premiums.

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