How to get the cheapest life insurance if you smoke or vape

7 min Read Published: 30 Nov 2023
ecig smoking life insurance
We look at how smoking can impact life insurance premiums

There are many factors that can affect the cost of life insurance premiums and it probably won't come as a shock to reveal that the two biggest contributors to the cost are the amount that you are applying for and the age at which you apply.

What may shock you however is that the cost of that same life insurance will approximately double if you are a smoker. Or in other words, the insurance company thinks you are twice as likely to die as someone who doesn't smoke due to the associated health risks such as heart attack, cancer and lung disease and so increases your premiums accordingly.

There are harsher penalties for those who smoke heavily, but broadly speaking everyone that smokes is hit with the same increase. It doesn't just stop with cigarettes, insurance companies will often apply the same increase if you use an electronic cigarette (e-cig) or even just puff on the occasional cigar. Vaping is on the rise and the insurance industry is trying its best to understand how to treat those who smoke e-cigarettes. Many life insurance companies will charge the same premium whether someone vapes or smokes a cigarette but there are a few insurance companies who are starting to change their view, charging those who vape less than those who smoke.

In this article we explain how insurance companies test for smoking, the implications of lying on an application form, how to get the cheapest life insurance quotes, how to ensure that your policy will pay out and get £100 cashback* when you buy life insurance.

Vaping - What we know so far

According to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) there are more than 4.7 million people in the UK now using e-cigarettes (e-cigs), mostly having switched from smoking to vaping and this number is up from around 700,000 in 2012. Vaping continues to be a popular choice for those looking for the possible health benefits if they stop smoking or quit tobacco products but the dangers and long-term effects are still unknown.

While most medical professionals admit that using e-cigarettes poses less risk than smoking cigarettes, the lack of knowledge surrounding the ingredients and the long-term effects means there is confusion in the insurance industry. It is not yet clear how safe vaping is and so when it comes to life insurance you will find that each life insurance provider will have their stance.

Is vaping considered smoking for life insurance purposes?

It depends. Some life insurance companies treat vaping as smoking (and so your premium will be the same as someone who smokes cigarettes). Some life insurance companies will ask whether the e-cigarettes you use contain nicotine, and if they don't you will either be treated as a non-smoker or receive a smaller increase than if you smoked. Later in this article, we give you some tips on how to get the best and cheapest life cover if you smoke or vape.

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How do life insurance companies test for smoking?

An insurance company may ask you to take a cotinine test, which is a saliva swab that can test for cotinine (an alkaloid found in tobacco, the predominant metabolite of nicotine) to determine your smoker status. It is likely you will only be asked to take a test if you have either indicated that you have given up smoking or if you are applying for a large amount of life cover.

A cotinine test is usually carried out by a nurse and will be organised and paid for by the insurance company you are applying with.

How long does cotinine stay in the blood?

Cotinine will usually remain in your system for around 10 days but could be detected for far longer, depending on how you ingested the nicotine. Electronic cigarettes will often show up on a cotinine test, especially if they are nicotine-based. The cotinine test will show that you are nicotine free if you have given up smoking, allowing you to switch from a smoker to a non-smoker price if you have not used any nicotine-related products for the required amount of time indicated by the insurer which is usually 12 months. Life insurance companies will specifically ask if you have smoked tobacco products or used nicotine replacements such as a nicotine patch or e-cigarettes and so you need to make sure that you are honest when you apply. We go into more detail about applying for life insurance as a smoker, an ex-smoker and as an e-cigarette user below.

Lying about smoking on life insurance applications

A life insurance company will usually ask whether you have smoked any tobacco products, used an e-cigarette or used any nicotine replacement products in the last 12 months. You need to think hard and be completely honest. Even if you are just an occasional smoker or don't consider vaping as smoking, you will need to answer yes to the question. You can always clarify your situation later in the application process or if you are not happy with the final premium offered, you are free to decline the quote and to try and find cheaper quotes elsewhere.

If you are a smoker (as per the insurer's definition) and you answer no to the smoking question, then you will invalidate your insurance and you risk the life insurance policy not paying out if you make a claim. When a claim is made for death, the insurance company may write to your doctor for your medical records which may reveal your smoking habits at the time of your application too. If you want to know the best way to apply for life insurance as an e-cigarette user to guarantee the cheapest life insurance quotes, then skip to best life insurance for e-cigarette users.

Life insurance smoker vs nonsmoker

To demonstrate the difference in the cost, we have compared the costs of life insurance cover for both smokers and non-smokers below showing you how smoking affects the cost of your life insurance. We look at the cost of £250,000 level term life insurance over a 20-year term for a 25, 35, 45 and 55 year old. The figures were correct at the time of writing.

Monthly cost for £250,000 life insurance over 20 years - Non-smoker rates vs Smoker rates

Age Cover Term Non-Smoker Premium* Insurer Smoker Premium* Insurer
25 £250,000 20 Years £5.82 Aviva £9.80 Legal & General
35 £250,000 20 Years £10.50 Legal & General £20.06 Legal & General
45 £250,000 20 Years £22.58 Guardian £54.76 Legal & General
55 £250,000 20 Years £60.02 Legal & General £162.68 Legal & General

* all premiums are based on a person in good health who doesn't participate in any dangerous activities

Best life insurance for e-cigarette users

Most life insurance providers will treat e-cigarette users as smokers and so you will pay the same as someone who smokes cigarettes or cigars. There are however a couple of insurance companies that are more lenient and so will offer lower premiums for those who smoke e-cigarettes.

We have found that insurers are constantly changing their stance and so the best way to guarantee the cheapest and best life insurance quotes if you are an e-cigarette user is to speak to an independent specialist. Most people assume the best way to buy life insurance is to search an online life insurance calculator, but a far better way is to speak to an independent specialist* as they will be able to compare the whole of the market. They will also have the insight to know which insurer is best for your own unique circumstances, something an online calculator can't do. We have personally vetted an independent specialist and you can contact them by filling in this form* to get a tailored quote based on your current circumstances.

Best life insurance for smokers

If you smoke less than 20 cigarettes a day then you can use an online calculator to get a rough idea of the cost of life insurance. If you smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day or if you are an occasional smoker or cigar smoker then it is best to get a tailored quote from an independent life insurance specialist. Some insurers will charge more if you smoke more than 20 a day and some insurers are more lenient if you only smoke the odd cigar at Christmas and so it is important to get advice to ensure you get the best value policy that is guaranteed to pay out. Again, you can contact an independent specialist that we have vetted by filling in this form*.

Take a look at our article 'Which is the cheapest life insurance provider if I smoke' where we conducted some extensive research.

Best life insurance for ex-smokers

If you are an ex-smoker then you may be able to qualify for non-smoker rates. An insurance company will generally class you as a non-smoker if you have not smoked any tobacco products, used nicotine replacement products or electronic cigarettes in the last 12 months. If you took out life insurance when you were a smoker (and are now an ex-smoker), then so long as you have not had any significant health issues since, it is likely you can save money if you apply for a new replacement policy as an ex-smoker. Unfortunately, a life insurance calculator will not be able to work out which is the best quote as ex-smokers are treated differently depending on the insurer you speak to.

Once again, an independent specialist* will be able to put you in touch with the best insurance company based on your own circumstances.

Life insurance if you smoke or vape - Summary

  • Vaping is considered the same as smoking for most insurers (but not all)
  • Insurers can test to see if you have any nicotine in your system by asking you to take a cotinine test
  • If you have not used any tobacco products, nicotine replacement products or e-cigarettes for 12 months, then you are considered a non-smoker by most insurers
  • Be completely honest. If you are unsure, tell your insurer or insurance broker everything and they will be able to tell you whether you should be classed as a smoker or not.
  • If you are unhappy with the quote you can decline the offer and apply elsewhere
  • Smoking or vaping can affect the cost of your life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection insurance
  • Seek advice from an independent specialist. We have vetted a specialist that has extensive knowledge in this area and they will be able to find the best insurance company for you at the very best price. If you take out a policy with them you will qualify for up to £100 cashback. They can be contacted via this form*.


If a link has an * beside it this means that it is an affiliated link. If you go via the link, Money to the Masses may receive a small fee which helps keep Money to the Masses free to use. The following links can be used if you do not wish to help Money to the Masses and do not wish to qualify for any cashback referred to in the article - LifeSearch