Insurance companies use risk when calculating premiums. If you’re classed as a high risk to them either through existing health issues, age or lifestyle choices then they will charge more for their cover. When it comes to smoking the effects on an individual’s health are well-known and varied.

According to the Health and Social Care Centre report (2016) there were 78,000 deaths attributed to smoking in 2014. In the period 2014/15 the NHS had 4,700 smoking-related admissions per day. This accounts for approximately 28% of all admissions.

Effects of smoking

You inhale a cocktail of 40 carcinogenic chemicals each time you draw on a cigarette. Hand-rolled cigarettes are just as bad. Typical smoking-related cancers are of the lungs, throat, mouth and your organs. Your risk of stroke if you smoke 20 cigarettes a day is six times greater than if you are a non-smoker. Smokers under the age of 50 are five times more likely to have a heart attack. 90% of people with Coronary Pulmonary Obstructive Disorder (COPD) have developed this through smoking. Children of smoking parents run a higher risk of developing asthma and other breathing conditions.  Women, on average, enter the menopause 18 months earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.

And unfortunately it doesn’t stop there. Smoking also increases surgery recovery times and is linked to serious complications developing following a hip or knee replacement and any reconstructive breast surgery.

So, in terms of health insurance premiums you have two negative factors – the increased likelihood of developing a serious illness coupled with the longer recovery times and/or complications both of which increase mortality rates. Now consider that smokers have a reduced lifespan, it means that the insurance company will collect fewer monthly revenue payments over the lifespan of the policyholder. It’s little wonder that a smoker’s premiums are high.

What makes a smoker?

Insurance companies have three broad categories when it comes to how they grade you as a smoker. If you have never smoked you are (obviously) classed as a non-smoker. If you currently smoke then you are (also, obviously) a smoker. The third category is the person who used to smoke. In this case the premiums will depend on how long ago you smoked and how many you used to smoke. Some insurance companies will class you as a non-smoker if you haven’t smoked in the last 12 months although others will require you to have abstained for 5 years. It’s worth shopping around if you’ve recently quit.

Is it just cigarettes that count?

Far from it: For insurance purposes, smoking counts as anything that can be seen as a tobacco-based product. This includes e-cigarettes and nicotine patches. Smoking recreational drugs such as marijuana is also considered to class you as a smoker.

Being upfront with your insurance company

If you smoke and decide to keep this information from your insurance company and fall ill they may choose not to pay out at all or only cover a reduced percentage of your costs. In the UK, withholding information from an insurance company is classed as fraud. Bear in mind that your GP and hospital records including X-Rays, scans and tests may all be available to the insurance company to examine.

What happens if I quit during the lifetime of my policy?

While being good for your health, quitting smoking during the term of your health insurance should have a beneficial effect on your premiums. The Association of British Insurers, say that your provider will have to look into your new circumstances and will reassess your premiums accordingly. They will likely need some form of evidence such as requesting a report from your GP. 

How are premiums affected?

According to, the average a smoker is likely to pay 5% or more on a premium compared that of a non-smoker of similar demographics. Let’s try and be more specific: a smoker aged 30 can pay up to a third more and a smoker aged 50 can be seen to pay up to a half more. This staggering difference is arrived at by using the extremes of the market and you will be able to find better deals. If we take a look at a northern city, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, a 70-year-old smoker may find themselves paying £3,400 pa compared with a non-smoker’s  £3,220 pa. A 45-year-old smoker would be expected to pay in the region of £1,500 pa compared to £1,400 pa. A 30-year-old smoker would face premiums of £1,000 compared to £950. So, for someone living in Newcastle, the yearly premium difference can be as small as £50 pa to £180 pa dependant on age. If we now consider London, taking our three hypothetical people then the 70-year-old smoker would see premiums of £3,800 pa compared to a non-smoker’s £3,600 pa. The 45-year-old smoker’s would be £1,650 pa compared to £1,570 pa and finally, the 30-year-old smoker’s £1,100 pa to £1,060 pa. In the capital the difference could be between £40 and £200 pa.

Considering where to buy health insurance

So there isn’t a big difference between areas in England when spread out over the course of a year but these figures need to be put in perspective. All the amounts used here are based on the best prices available and not all from the same insurance company. Failing to shop around could easily see you paying much more for premiums. Using price comparison websites and looking at insurance companies that offer policies outside of these is one way of ensuring you get the best price. Research is the key. If you are a smoker then there are insurance providers who don’t currently enquire into your smoking status and others that tailor their policies specifically for smokers by calculating their premiums on a case-by-case basis. This would be where they would take into consideration additional lifestyle factors such as weight, sports participation and other health factors. The only sure way of looking after your health and your wealth where smoking is concerned of course is to quit.

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  1. Johannah Buchan says:

    Why on earth are you promoting health insurance here of all places?

    1. Martin Rathfelder says:

      Because the advertisers pay. Do you think health insurance is harmful?

      1. rotzeichen says:

        Yes I do think it is harmful, especially as it undermines the NHS, don’t you Martin?

  2. Martin Rathfelder says:

    How does it undermine the NHS?

    1. rotzeichen says:

      The whole premise of the NHS was to be free at the point of use, did you forget that minor point Martin?

      1. Martin Rathfelder says:

        Health insurance is nothing to do with the NHS. Use of the NHS is not, and was never intended to be, compulsory. Bevan was very clear that if people wanted to continue to pay for private treatment that was their decision. People who have private health insurance can, and often do, use the NHS as well. People who spend time abroad need medical insurance. In the UK private medical care is a boutique industry. It does not attempt to provide comprehensive care.

  3. Jeannie says:

    The plus side is that if I smoked anything it would be a wake up call. There is a lot here on the minus side – for the health insurance industry’s argument we should use their services. I think this advert strengthens our case that we need to fight harder than ever for the NHS. Whatever we are doing now we need to redouble it, and work to ensure that the Labour Party don’t simply opt for a watered down NHS light version as an easy way out. We need our NHS back, and we need to do whatever that takes. We know that for the UK the health insurance industry simply doesn’t cover most of the more complex issues like cancers arising from smoking. Yet Mr and Mrs Smoker are, between them, still expected to cough up (‘scuse the pun) a full £6,800,00 a year between them in insurances. The insurance industry takes the profits, and passes the risks to the NHS. How many pensioners have the odd £7k needed for cover? A lot are living on total incomes of less. And it gets worse!! In a fully Americanised system, where the risks are borne by the health insurance companies, we are talking an amount 4 5 or 6 times as much for premiums, and still co payments are demanded at eye watering levels. You can be in hock for years paying back an operation, even with insurances, and many have to sell homes, go and live with relatives, and be declared bankrupt. It is a major cause of overcrowded intergenerational homes Working age people might get their insurances through work, the elderly and disabled/long term sick are having their already meagre cover pulled from under them by the new government. Many more are just left to get sicker and die (and as they are not autopsied they don’t count in the stats). What do the Americans get for their money? Despite what people imagine most get less than we do in the UK. Short consultations, few general doctors, and long waits (months not weeks) to see them, insurers dictating that your doctor is too “nice” and they are not making enough profit, so go and find another doctor. Insurance companies deciding you are too sick to insure, so effectively condemning you to death (yes I have seen that happen with my US work). Not enough of the money going to the coal face, and hospitals targeting patients for work they don’t need, and operations that are not only not needed but complex and dangerous. If you are rich and well insured it is a really great system, but WE want a really great system for everyone, not the favoured few, and until a few years ago we had that. It is being systematically destroyed on behalf of corporations with world wide reach and influence they have gained by their amorality and ruthlessness. If you think I am angry at the health insurance industry you are right. I think that with the life limiting conditions I have which are expensive to treat the results of their influence could well kill me prematurely. I don’t want to take away individual choice, but I want an NHS that is so good that insurances are a luxury we can all do without. I am sure other members can add loads more to this, and encourage you to do so. Thanks to this ad for setting up the target, and lets keep on fighting and reminding ourselves just why we are doing it. We can’t lose this battle, for the sake of ourselves and generations to come.

    1. andydoc says:

      Jeannie what a fantastic reply – too tired at 03:00 to even try to add to it but wanted to show my appreciation.

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