Smokers may be paying as much as £2,000 more in life insurance premiums than non-smokers, according to price comparison website moneysupermarket.com. Following on from last year’s public smoking ban this is another area in which smokers are being specifically targeted. Premiums for non-smokers have slowly fallen in the last few years whereas those for smokers have risen sharply, some estimates claim that smoking policy holders are paying up to 100% more than their non-smoking counterparts.
The same is true of critical illness cover, which pays out a lump sum in the event of the policy-holder contracting a serious illness or injury. Smokers are seen as much more of a risk to insurers as the number of medical conditions that they could develop is far greater than that of a non-smoker.
According to Michael Challiner, editor of Express Life Insurance, this dramatic disparity is due to the increased competition between lenders brought about by the advent of the Internet: ‘It is now so easy to reach a decision that a ‘price war’ has developed and some very competitive quotations are available. This competition has however had an inevitable effect in that insurance companies have had to tighten up their procedures or risk losing money on the narrower margins. So they have hit the obvious target – smokers.’
Moneysupermarket.com have estimated that a thirty five year old male smoker could save 44% on his premiums if he quit the habit, paying only £9.91 per month over a twenty five year period as opposed to the £17.68 he would currently be paying.
However, Louise Cuming, a spokesperson for the website, has warned that the financial benefits of giving up smoking could be some time coming. Because of the highly addictive nature of cigarettes telling your insurer that you haven’t had a fag for a couple of days will not be convincing enough for them to lower your premiums. Most insurers require their clients to prove that they have been a non-smoker for a whole year before agreeing to a reduction in premiums. When this reduction comes, however, it could be as much as 60%.
Combined with ever-escalating cigarette prices this news could be the incentive that many smokers need to quit the habit. There are also more policies springing up which encourage and reward positive lifestyle changes. PruProtect is the first to link the cost of premiums to advances in the holder’s health. Speaking on last month’s National No Smoking Day, Sammy Rubin, CEO, PruProtect, said: ‘National No Smoking Day is a time when smokers will be thinking about the true cost of their habit, financially and physically. At PruProtect we support both, and offer those wanting to quit not only a financial incentive by saving money on premiums, but encourage people to lead a healthier life style through our Vitality points scheme. To help those finding it tough to quit, we also offer heavily discounted entry to Alan Carr’s Easy Way smoking cessation courses.’