How life insurers view smoking
Smoking accounts for 13% of all deaths in Australia – killing an estimated 20,500 people a year. If you're a smoker, you're classified as a high-risk applicant by all life insurers and your premiums will typically be much more than a non-smoker. A life insurance application will have questions that will lead to you being labelled a smoker or non-smoker.
Generally, insurers won't distinguish between any of the following:
- Vapes and e-cigarettes
- Chewing tobacco
- Nicotine replacements, like patches
So, insurance providers will typically put e-cigarette use and vaping into the same category of 'smoker'.
Life insurance costs for smokers vs non-smokers
The below quotes are based on a 30 year old smoker living in NSW, earning $70,000 annually, taking out $500,000 life insurance cover. Prices were gathered in February 2023 and are subject to change.
|Policy||Monthly premium (Non-smoker)||Monthly premium (Smoker)||Percentage increase||Apply today|
|TAL Lifetime Protection||$20.00||$45.59||127.95%||Get quote|
|NobleOak Premium Life Direct||$22.20||$22.20||0%||Get quote|
|RAC My Protection Plan||$27.52||$49.97||81.58%||Get quote|
|Allianz Life Plan||$36.89||$68.54||85.80%||More info|
|ANZ Ezicover Life Insurance||$32.11||$53.86||67.74%||More info|
|Zurich Ezicover Life Insurance||$23.49||$38.20||62.62%||Get quote|
|AHM Life Insurance||$43.75||$74.10||69.37%||Get quote|
|Medibank Life Insurance||$46.04||$46.04||0%||Get quote|
|AAMI Life Insurance||$80.14||$1,024.71||1,178.65%||More info|
|Insuranceline Life Insurance||$42.20||$80.14||89.91%||More info|
|Suncorp Life Insurance||$29.41||$80.14||172.49%||More info|
|Bendigo Bank MaxLife Life Protect||$58.64||$109.56||86.83%||More info|
|Budget Direct||$22.20||$40.31||81.58%||More info|
|Policy||Monthly premium (Non-smoker)||Monthly premium (Smoker)||Percentage increase||Apply today|
|TAL Lifetime Protection||$18.82||$45.59||142.24%||Get quote|
|NobleOak Premium Life Direct||$15.19||$25.25||66.23%||Get quote|
|RAC My Protection Plan||$18.83||$31.30||66.22%||Get quote|
|Allianz Life Plan||$28.53||$43.31||51.81%||More info|
|ANZ Ezicover Life Insurance||$25.39||$43.70||72.12%||More info|
|Zurich Ezicover Life Insurance||$18.15||$31.74||74.88%||Get quote|
|AAMI Life Insurance||$29.41||$53.28||81.16%||More info|
|Insuranceline Life Insurance||$29.41||$53.28||81.16%||More info|
|Suncorp Life Insurance||$29.41||$53.28||81.16%||More info|
|AHM Life Insurance||$34.91||$46.74||33.89%||Get quote|
|Medibank Life Insurance||$36.75||$49.18||33.82%||Get quote|
|Bendigo Bank MaxLife Life Protect||$35.91||$56.51||57.37%||More info|
|Budget Direct||$15.19||$25.25||66.23%||More info|
How long do I have to stop smoking to be classified as a non-smoker?
Typically, to be classed as a 'non-smoker' you'll need to be free of any smoking products for 12 months but this car vary between insurers. Insurers usually don't differentiate between an occasional smoker (for example, a 'social smoker') or a pack-a-day smoker.
In 2020-21, more than 1 in 4 (27.2%) people aged 18 years and over were ex-smokers.
Unfortunately, kicking the habit won't necessarily mean you can amend your policy terms – this will vary from policy to policy. Ask your provider if they'll be able to change your terms and offer you a saving. You might have to take a medical exam, which may include a blood test, before you can change your terms.
Even if your insurer won't budge, the upside is you'll still enjoy the health benefits of non-smoking.
Brenton Tong: financial adviser
"I usually recommend that if someone wants to quit, and they are also going to be changing/applying for life insurance, that they see a doctor for a checkup when they start – and put on the record that they have quit. Then a check up at 12 months with a confirmation that they have been a non-smoker for 12 months."
Do I have to tell my insurer I smoke?
Yes. If you've used any nicotine products over the past 12 months, you'll need to declare it. The Insurance Contracts Act 1984 specifies that you must disclose anything you know, or would be expected to know, that's relevant to an insurer's decision to offer you cover. Failing to do so could lead to a future claim - either by you or your beneficiaries - being turned down.
Read more on this subject in our guide to life insurance and smoking disclosure.
Is vaping considered smoking for life insurance purposes?
Yes, you'll be considered a smoker if you vape and the e-cigarette contains nicotine. While e-cigarettes are frequently promoted as 'healthier' than regular cigarettes, not much research has been done on their health effects. As a result, insurer's don't differentiate between e-cigarette and cigarette smokers.
If you vape and the insurer asks whether you use any nicotine products, you should answer yes. Otherwise you risk any having any future claim rejected.
3 factors an insurer will take into account for smokers
Smokers, along with other high risk cases, are charged a far higher premium than non-smokers. The following information may be taken into account by an insurer:
The type of smoker you are
Are you a heavy smoker? Insurers will want to know how many individual or packs of cigarettes you smoke every day to determine the health risks you are exposed to. This also includes your preferred method: tobacco chewing, cigarettes, cigars or nicotine patch.
The length of time you've smoked for
An insurer will also ask when you started smoking to determine how high your health risk exposure is. The longer you have been smoking, the higher the risks for critical illnesses are.
The date you quit
You will only be determined a non-smoker if 12 months or more have passed since you had your last nicotine product.
How can I get more affordable life insurance if I smoke?
There are some steps you can take to reduce your premium:
- Quit smoking. The first and most logical step is to improve your current lifestyle. Quitting smoking will be a key factor a big impact in you having the opportunity to reduce your premium rates. You could try the government's free My QuitBuddy app or call the Quitline on 13 QUIT (13 7848).
- Ask an expert. If you don’t know where to begin, ask for help from an insurance adviser. An insurance adviser can explain the features and benefits of different life insurance plans, answer any question you might have and tailor a life insurance plan suitable to your needs. You can speak to one of our partner brokers by completing the form below.
- Shop around and compare. Just as with anyone taking out life cover, it is important to consider the different types of policy options available to smokers. Find out what benefits and features are relevant to your needs. Once you've decided on the type of policy you want, shop around for similar policies from different insurance providers and compare their rates, exclusions and inclusions. Our comparison tool can help you do so.
Financial adviser Grant Millar on life insurance for smokers
Who is considered a smoker?
"Broadly speaking, when looking to obtain life insurance, you will be asked if you've smoked tobacco or any other substance, or used e-cigarettes or any nicotine replacement products within the 12 months immediately prior to your application for cover. If you answer 'yes' to any of these, it's highly likely you'll end up being deemed as a smoker – even if it was just one cigar from a night out with friends 6 months ago."
How much more will it cost to be a smoker?
How do I remove a loading?
"The good news is, if you can answer 'no' to the question about your smoking history over a continual 12+ month period after you've been issued your policy, you can apply to be deemed a non-smoker and have your premiums adjusted. This process may involve questions around whether you've quit smoking due to health reasons, potentially with specific questions relating to any tests, investigations or treatment relating to your cardiovascular or respiratory systems, or other health issues such as cancer, cyst, or growth of any kind.
The reason the insurer asks these questions is to accurately assess their ongoing risk of providing insurance to you. Keep in mind, the insurer won't be able to cancel or alter your contract if you've suffered health issues after your policy was issued (unless, perhaps, it relates to something you failed to disclose prior to your policy being issued); however, the insurer may not remove the smoker status, or they may offer other alternate terms, if there are still risks that exist and warrant such action.
It is up to you whether you accept any alternate terms that are offered by the insurer when you apply to be deemed a non-smoker.
If smoking was a lifestyle choice, and you've had no serious adverse health effects since your policy was issued, you're much less likely to have any trouble with the insurer changing your status to a non-smoker."
Grant Millar is the financial adviser & money coach at Inspired Financial Planners.
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