How Does Smoking & Drinking Impact Life Insurance Premiums?

It’s no secret that smoking and drinking excessive amounts of alcohol is bad for your health so it’s not surprising that both habits will have a negative effect on the cost of your life insurance policy. In the UK, 14.8% of people smoke and 57% drink alcohol. If you’re part of that percentage, you might be wondering how it’s impacting your life insurance premium.

It’s widely known that smoking and drinking increases your chance of developing serious health problems including, cancers, heart attacks and strokes. These health conditions put you at a higher risk of dying early and insurers take the risks related to smoking very seriously. Smokers are more likely to need to claim on their life insurance at a younger age due to suffering an early death or a critical illness than non-smokers. But how much alcohol is too much? How much does smoking increase the cost by? And will it be cheaper if you quit? We take a look at how these habits impact the cost of your policy.

How does smoking affect the cost of my life insurance policy?

Smokers can expect their life insurance premium to cost at least a third more than non-smokers of the same age. For smokers aged 50 plus, premiums can cost double those of non-smokers.

I smoke occasionally, do I need to declare this?

Yes – insurance companies classify anyone that’s smoked tobacco in the last 12 months as a smoker. Whether you smoke 20 a day or just have the occasional cigarette or cigar when you drink, you’re considered to be a smoker. When applying for a policy, be aware that the use of any tobacco or nicotine products classifies you as a smoker, from chewing tobacco to nicotine patches.

Also, it’s important to note that whilst e-cigarettes and vapes are sold as ‘healthier’ alternatives to cigarettes, insurers don’t actually consider them to be any different. If you use an e-cigarette or vape, you’ll need to declare yourself as a smoker when taking out a life insurance policy.

You might think that because you only smoke on rare occasions, you’ll be able to get away with withdrawing this information from your provider. However, many insurance providers run checks on the medical history of one in five applications to catch people out. If you have lied about smoking on your policy and your provider realises after your death, they have two options. One, to not pay out at all, leaving your loved ones with no benefit. Or they can work out how much you paid as a non-smoker compared to how much you should have paid if you’d declared yourself as a smoker and deduct the difference from your benefit. For example, if you only paid 70% of what you should have, the insurer will only pay out 70% of the agreed benefit amount.

Will my premiums go down if I quit smoking?

Yes, quitting smoking will reduce your health risks so your insurance premiums will go down. However, you’ll need to have successfully abstained from smoking for 12 or 18 months.

According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), insurance providers will look into your medical profile if you’ve claimed to have given up smoking. Normally, they’ll ask for a report from your doctor. If they have any concerns, they might ask you to have a chest X-ray or urine test to determine whether you still smoke.

You won’t have to take out a new policy once you’ve quit, you can call up your existing insurance provider and ask them to update your policy and adjust your premiums if you’re able to prove to them that you’ve been nicotine free for the required period of time.

How does alcohol affect the cost of my life insurance policy?

When you apply for a life insurance policy, you’ll be asked how many units of alcohol you drink a week. But don’t panic, if you have a couple of weekends in the year where you drink a bit more than normal, your premiums won’t shoot up and similarly, if you’re completely teetotal you won’t necessarily get a discount.

The government guidance suggests that men and women who drink on a regular basis should drink no more than 14 units a week, equivalent to six pints of beer or seven glasses of wine. You also shouldn’t save your units up and consume them in one or two goes. If you do drink more than the recommended amount, you’re at a higher risk so you can expect your premiums to cost more.

Insurers can run checks to ensure you haven’t deliberately withheld how much you drink to make your premium cheaper. If they suspect that you’ve not been honest, they can reduce your payout or reject the claim entirely, leaving your family with no benefit in the event of your death.

Can an alcoholic get life insurance?

It’s unlikely that an alcoholic will be able to get a life insurance policy if they’re still drinking. They’ll also experience difficulty trying to get a policy if they’ve received treatment for alcoholism in the past. Underwriters will ask for a detailed medical report in order to make a decision. If they’ve successfully abstained from drinking alcohol for two years, they’ll have a higher chance of getting a policy provided they haven’t seriously damaged their liver, however, they can expect the premium to be four times the normal price. If it’s been five years since they drank alcohol, they should be able to get a policy at the normal price, depending on the medical report. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if you die as a result of alcohol abuse, your provider is unlikely to pay out.