Life insurance for smokers

7 minutes

Smokers can benefit from life insurance, and many choose to take out a policy despite their risk level

Around one in eight of those aged 18 or over in the UK  are smokers, with around 4 million also using vapes daily. Despite a decrease in cigarette use in recent years, vapes have increased in use with 7.1% of the adult population now using them. However, many don’t realise this could affect your life insurance policy and the premiums you pay.

In this guide, we run through everything you need to know about how smokers' status and life insurance work. We also cover the products you could be eligible for as well as some of the important facts you need to know before applying.

The information on this page should not be considered as financial advice. If you are unsure what’s right for you, please make sure you speak to a financial adviser. 

What is considered “smoking” by an insurer?

A cigarette is not the only form of smoking recognised by an insurance provider. This technicality catches many people out when applying for life insurance. You’ll also usually be classed as a smoker if you use any nicotine products, patches, vapes or even if you only smoke casually.

For more accurate premiums, you’ll need to be honest about whether you smoke or use any nicotine-based products. Failing to do this could invalidate your claim, leaving your loved ones unable to receive your death benefit if you pass away during your life insurance term. 


Cigarettes are the first thing that comes to mind when you’re asked if you’re a smoker, and you should always answer this honestly. Whether you smoke a pack a day or casually smoke throughout the month, this is still considered smoking by an insurance provider.


Despite being less harmful to your body than cigarettes, vapes and e-cigarettes still carry risks. As they include nicotine, most insurance providers will classify vapes as a form of smoking. If you vape, even occasionally, you won’t be able to say you’re a non-smoker and could risk invalidating your insurance if you do. 

Nicotine substitutes

Nicotine substitutes are commonly used to help smokers wean themselves off cigarettes and are recommended by the NHS as a form of treatment. Nicotine substitutes, also known as nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs), include vapes, lozenges or gum, patches, sprays and prescription medicine. 

Even if you’re in the process of quitting smoking and haven’t touched a cigarette in a while, you’ll still need to identify as a smoker. You won’t usually be able to claim you’re a non-smoker until you’ve completely quit the products for at least 12 months without relapse (however this can vary between different insurance companies, so it’s best to make sure you check).

Can you get life insurance if you smoke?

Yes. Smokers can still benefit from life insurance, so whether you smoke regularly or only occasionally, you should be able to find the right cover for you.

However, you will usually pay higher premiums than a non-smoker, so it’s worth remembering this when applying and finding your provider. You’ll also need to be honest about your situation, including current health and lifestyle conditions.

What types of life insurance are available for smokers?

Depending on the provider and other factors, such as existing medical conditions and your postcode, you could be eligible for life insurance products even if you smoke. Each policy  has benefits and disadvantages, so we always recommend speaking to a financial adviser before you purchase one. At LV=, we partner with LifeSearch who offer independent and non-judgemental financial advice.

Decreasing cover

Decreasing cover is designed  for those taking out life insurance to provide a lump sum pay out to help towards paying off a capital and interest repayment mortgage. Essentially, your cover reduces year on year in a similar way to the amount you owe on your mortgage also reduces over time,  and so often works out cheaper than level cover. However, although the amount of cover decreases, the amount you pay for your policy doesn’t. As a smoker, you should be able to take out a decreasing life insurance policy, but your premiums are usually affected by your smoker status, as well as your age and other factors, such as post code and the initial amount of cover you are looking for.

Pros Cons

It is often cheaper than level cover.

Premiums do not go down, as your cover reduces.

Your payout could cover the remainder or a significant amount of your total mortgage. 

This product doesn’t work if you have an interest-only mortgage or plan to make either over or underpayments towards your mortgage. If you have one of those mortgages you could find the insurance pay out will fall short of what you owe on it.


Level cover

As a term policy, level cover has an expiry date determined by you and your insurer, which could be the day before your 90th birthday or a fixed term, for example, between 5 and 50 years. As a smoker, you are likely to pay more for your premiums, especially if you take out a shorter policy or add critical illness cover.


Pros Cons

Level cover offers peace of mind and security for your family if you pass away when the policy is active.

Your cover won’t keep up with inflation so it will buy you less in the future.

This death benefit could be  used to support your family with household bills, funeral expenses, mortgage repayments and much more.

You’ll need to afford to pay the same amount in premiums for the length of your policy.


Increasing cover

If you want your cover amount to keep up with inflation, increasing cover might be the best choice for you. Rather than paying fixed premiums for the duration of your policy, your premiums and amount of cover will increase yearly so your death benefit covers the effects of inflation. With cost-of-living changes, and high inflation, it can impact the real value of the death benefit your loved ones actually receive, meaning what you could buy with it today, will buy less in the future. Even if you smoke, you should still be able to benefit from this policy, however you will usually pay higher premiums with your smoker status.


Pros Cons

Your death benefit will keep its value as inflation changes.

As you won’t know how much your premiums might be in the future (as you can’t tell how much inflation will be in the future), they might start to become unaffordable for you, as your cover increases.

Please note, LV= doesn’t offer increasing cover on You would need to speak to a financial adviser if you are considering this type of cover.

Whole of life

As the name suggests, this life insurance policy spans from the day you purchase it until your death. If you smoke, you’ll still usually be eligible for whole of life with applicable providers, but you’ll need to prepare to pay more for it.

Pros Cons

Can cover you for the long term instead of a fixed term, meaning your beneficiaries are always protected.

This comes with higher premiums versus a fixed-term policy, so you’ll need to ensure you can always afford to pay now and in the future. 

Guarantees your family and loved ones will have protection when you pass away.

Your premiums could be much higher than a non-smoker’s.

Death benefit can be used to offset the inheritance tax for larger estates.  

Please note, LV= no longer offers whole of life cover as a policy. However, existing policy holders can still make a claim.


Critical illness cover

Depending on your provider, critical illness cover can be added to a life insurance policy as an extra layer of protection. Cancer, heart disease and strokes are often the top conditions that insurance providers pay out for, but they’re not the only conditions covered. Even as a smoker, you can add critical illness cover to your policy, but it’s worth checking in with your provider first to find out which illnesses and conditions they cover and what your beneficiaries could be entitled to. 


Pros Cons

Critical illness cover can be added when you first take out a policy, meaning you’re covered in the event your health decreases.

The amount you pay in premiums could increase if either you or any other parties, including children, smoke.

Depending on the insurer, you could be covered for a wide range of illnesses and diseases.

Conditions are based on the severity of illness. Therefore, for some conditions, if your case is less severe, you might not be covered.


Why does smoking affect your life insurance?

As cigarette smoke is known to cause or increase your risk for many serious diseases and conditions, it makes smokers a higher risk for insurance providers. Conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease are associated with smoking, which is why insurers consider you a higher risk. This is often reflected in the amount you pay in premiums as a smoker. 

Even vapes and e-cigarettes carry their risks, such as exposure to nicotine and other chemicals, which is why premiums will remain high even if you haven’t touched a cigarette in years. Similarly, nicotine substitutes, such as patches and sprays, will impact your life insurance policy. 

Can you reduce your premiums when you stop smoking?

In order to reduce your life insurance premiums, you’ll usually need to demonstrate that you haven’t smoked or used a nicotine substitute in at least the last 12 months. Once you have stopped smoking, your premiums won’t automatically change. Instead, you’ll need to let your insurer know and they might agree to reduce the amount you pay for your policy.

Does it matter how much you smoke?

Insurers need to know whether you smoke a pack a day or casually smoke a cigar. It’s vital that you’re honest with your insurer, even if your smoking habit isn’t a commonly known fact. As either a regular or occasional smoker, you pose a higher risk for insurers. The amount you smoke factors into your total premiums, but if you wean yourself off and maintain that habit for a period of usually at least 12 months, your insurer might be willing to reduce how much you pay for your policy in the future.

Why should you declare that you’re a smoker?

Across the industry, the majority of claims are paid, but a small number aren’t, and this may be due to withheld medical or lifestyle information. When you sign up for life insurance, make sure you are completely honest about your medical and lifestyle information - including your smoking history when you apply for (or update) your insurance. 

If you provide false or misleading information, it could invalidate your claim and mean your loved ones lose out if you pass away during your life insurance term. By telling your insurer that you’re a smoker, it allows them to assess your situation more accurately, offering you the correct premiums and cover to meet your needs. It also safeguards your death benefit so your family can collect it if you pass away during the term of your life insurance. 

Should you declare a passive smoking habit?

It’s really important that you inform your insurance provider of any smoking habits, no matter how frequently they take place. Tobacco and nicotine carry their risks and have been known to cause illness and diseases for some. Your insurance provider will need to factor this in when producing a life insurance quote for you.

What happens if you lie about smoking?

Simply, if you lie about your smoking habits, your family and beneficiaries could lose your death benefit. Failing to tell an insurer that you smoke could invalidate your policy. Whilst mistakes do happen when filling in applications, it’s important to resolve them as quickly as possible so your loved ones aren’t left without.

How much does life insurance cost if you smoke?

For non-smokers and low-risk individuals, life insurance policies could start from as little as £5. However, smokers could see life insurance policies starting from more than this due to their level of risk. This considers your level of risk but will also depend on other factors like age and other health conditions. 

The way insurers work out how much people need to pay for life or critical illness insurance is based on age, risk and life expectancy. Smokers have a higher risk of poor health and shorter life expectancy because of the links between smoking and some life-threatening diseases. This means the cost of these types of insurance is higher for smokers than for non-smokers. 

Life Insurance for Non-Smokers Life Insurance for Smokers

At 30

 At 60

At 30

 At 60
Man with small amount of money Man with medium amount of money Smoker with some money Smoker with a lot of money

When are you considered a non-smoker?

The criteria will depend on the insurer your policy is with. However, most will classify you as a non-smoker if you haven’t used a cigarette or nicotine substitute within at least the last 12 months. Unfortunately, if you do use a nicotine product or even casually smoke a cigarette, you won’t usually be considered a non-smoker by insurers.

If you become a non-smoker, will this affect your life insurance?

If you already have a life insurance policy, it’s in your interests to let your insurer know that you no longer smoke, although you don’t have to. Whilst telling them won’t always mean you’ll benefit from lower premiums on your current policy, you can shop around and see if you are able to get a new policy with the same insurer, or a different insurer and benefit from possibly cheaper premiums by taking out a new policy.

Services that will help you quit smoking

We want you to live a healthy and happy life. So, if you do smoke, why not take this opportunity to think about quitting? We know it’s not an easy thing to give up, and you might want to try nicotine replacements such as gum, patches, vaping, or prescription medication to help beat the cravings. 

Useful resources to help you stop smoking:

  • Call the NHS helpline 0800 169 0169 for information about local support groups
  • Ask your doctor to explain what options are available to help you quit
  • Use our Doctor’s Services app to get help and advice about stopping smoking

Looking for life insurance that covers you?

At LV=, our life insurance policies are designed to give you peace of mind for your family’s future. Even if you smoke, you can still take out a life insurance policy to cover you and your family. We’ve partnered with independent financial advisers, LifeSearch, to offer you financial advice on the protection products that are right for you. Request a callback today.