How Smoking impacts your Life Insurance Policy?

Smoking – A Health Hazard

Smoking is a serious health hazard and is injurious to health. The effects of smoking are grave. Smoking can affect any organ of the body and is life threatening too. Tobacco smoking is the most common form of smoking across the world.

Smoking may impact the lungs, heart, brain, bones, vision etc., Smoking is considered to be a silent killer which contains more than 4000 chemicals of which 250 are known to be detrimental and more than 50 are identified as cancer causing chemicals. People who smoke are prone to various types of cancers in the lung, tongue, mouth, throat, bladder, etc.,

Smoking affects the smoker’s complete body, resulting in fatal diseases like Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Emphysema, Tuberculosis, Chronic bronchitis, Cardiovascular disease, etc. Smoking has ill effects for the smoker and the people around the smoker inhaling the second-hand smoke. Second-hand smoke kills.

Second-hand smoke (passive smoking) is referred to as “the smoke that fills enclosed spaces like restaurants, offices or shops when people consume tobacco products such as cigarettes, bidis, pipes, cigar, etc.Smoking Health Hazard pic

Statistical Data on Smoking

As per WHO (World Health Organization) Data on Smoking dated July 2015:

  • 6 million people each year die because of tobacco usage.
  • More than 5 million of such deaths are due to the direct tobacco usage and more than 6,00,000 deaths of non-smokers inhaling second-hand smoke.
  • Roughly 80% of the more than 1 billion smokers worldwide live in low and middle-income countries, where the burden of tobacco-related illness and death is heaviest.
  • Tobacco users who die prematurely deprive their families of income, raise the cost of health care and hinder economic development.
  • In some countries, children from poor households are frequently employed in tobacco farming to provide family income. These children are especially vulnerable to “green tobacco sickness“, which is caused by the nicotine that is absorbed through the skin from the handling of wet tobacco leaves.

Indian Context:

  • There are approximately 120 million smokers in India.
  • India is home to 12% of the world’s smokers.
  • Approximately 900,000 people die every year in India due to smoking as of 2009.
  • As of 2015, the number of men smoking tobacco in rose to 108 million, an increase of 36%, between 1998 and 2015
  • One million of the tobacco deaths occur in India.

     (Source: News Article dated 31st May 2015 in Indian Express)

Who is considered as a SMOKER for an Insurance Company?

Who is a smoker for an insurance company defination of smoker by life insurance company pic

The smoker may be an occasional smoker or a regular smoker. There are different kinds of smokers prevalent around us. But for an Insurance Company there is no demarcation between the kinds of smoker. For insurance companies, there is no difference between an occasional or a regular smoker.

A person either 1 cigarettes or 10 cigarettes in a day is deemed to be a Smoker for an Insurance Company.

Life insurance companies ask very precise questions from the life to be insured to categorize him/her as a SMOKER or a NON SMOKER.

Smoker in Life Insurance parlance is the one who consumes NICOTINE/TOBACCO in any form and quantity like cigarettes, bidis, cigars and chewable tobacco items like Pan Masala or Khaini, etc. Usage of a nicotine gum may also be considered for a qualification of a SMOKER.

Types of Smoking related questions in the Proposal Form asked by the Life Insurance Companies are:

  • Do you take tobacco products?
  • Do you smoke?
  • Did you consume tobacco products in the last three/five years?
  • Have you ever consumed tobacco products?

YES to any of such question will put you in the SMOKER Category.

Example: Max Life Insurance defines an individual into a Smoker category if, in the last three years, you have consumed any Tobacco/Nicotine products which include Cigarette, Bidi, Cigar, Gutka, Flavored Pan Masala,Khaini,etc. If not you are classified as Non Smoker.

Definition of a smoker example how many years smoking pic


Risk & Life Insurance       

Life Insurance policies are long term contracts and are granted on the basis of Underwriting.

Underwriting is the process of assessing risk in the life of the insured person and specifying the cost in terms of Premium for the Life Cover (Sum Assured). Life Insurance companies assess the vital factors related to the life to be insured,  before granting the life insurance policy to ensure that the insurance company’s have a healthy pool of people which are insured with them.

Granting life insurance to everyone without risk analysis will hamper the profitability of an Insurance company.

There are 2 kinds of underwriting which is Medical and Financial Underwriting  done at the insurer’s end before getting into a Life Insurance contract with the insured.

  • Medical Underwriting is done to assess the physical & health risk in the life to be insured. Medical Underwriting vital factors involve parameters like Age, Personal Health Status, Family History, Occupation, Pre-Existing Disease, Smoking & Drinking Details etc.
  • Financial Underwriting is done to assess the premium paying capacity of the insured against the chosen sum assured basis the factors like Income, occupation, Other life Insurance Policies details, etc.

Basis the analysis of the risk in the life of an insured, the Insurer decides on either;

  • Granting the Life Insurance on Regular Premium Rates
  • Granting the Life Insurance on Higher Premium Rates (Due to an extra risk in the insured’s life)
  • Declining the Life Insurance Proposal (Due to uninsurable risk in the insured’s life)

Impact of Smoking on Life Insurance Policy

Smoking & Life insurance policy impact on premium rates pic

Smoking is a serious health hazard, it is a fact known to all and is discussed above also. When a person smokes, it affects his body and health drastically in the long run. The probability of the disease or critical illness is higher during the lifetime of a person who smokes. Deteriorating health may also cause early death of the person habituated with smoking.

From an Insurance Company’s point of view the risk in a smoker’s life is more and avoiding such risks will prove to be a loss to the Insurance company and will affect the company’s profitability. The risk of dying early is probable in the case of the life to be insured who smokes. The Insurance company has to pay a death claim to the nominee in case of such scenario’s leading to a rise in death claims.

Does it mean that the person who smokes is not granted a Life Insurance Policy?

The answer is that the insurance companies charge HIGHER PREMIUMS from an individual who smoke basis the higher risk involved in his life. If the risk is very high which is beyond the underwriting guidelines of an insurance company, it may decline the proposal as well.

Higher the Risk, higher will be the Premium. The premium charges are higher for a person who smokes as compared to a non smoker. Especially when it is a pure protection plan like TERM INSURANCE offering higher sum assured at a nominal cost and where the insurance company has to pay a death benefit in case of insured dies during the term of a policy.

Examples of Premium Differential (Smoker Vs Non-Smoker)

Premium Difference for a Max Online Term Plan, Age: 32 years, Sum Assured: 50 Lakh, Term 30 years.

For a SMOKER, Premium Amount = Rs 6,750

Life insurance policy High premium for tobacco consumers picInsurance Premium for tobacco consumer smoker pic


For a NON- Smoker Premium Amount = Rs 4,450Life insurance policy Low premium for non tobacco consumers non smokers pic

Life insurance poliycy premium estimate for non smoker pics


Eye Opener : The difference in the Premium is Rs 2,300 (Rs 6,750 –  Rs 4,450) which is  51.68% of a non smoker premium price. The Premium for a Smoker is priced at more than 50% cost, higher than a non Smoker premium price.

Concealing Smoking Details is a NOT a Way Out

Contract of Insurance is based on the “Principle of Utmost good Faith”, where life to be insured is required to disclose, correct details and material facts asked by the Insurer in the proposal form. Any Misrepresentation or Concealment of facts may lead to the contract being null and void and the benefits in the Life Insurance policy are forfeited.

Concealing or misrepresenting the smoking details is not a solution to seek Life Insurance Policy. The insurance company may repudiate the death claim basis the non disclosure of the material fact, like “Smoking” which will defeat the entire purpose of taking a life insurance policy. Your family is unable to receive any Claim benefits from your life insurance policy in case of hiding the smoking details which is caught by an insurer.

Life to be insured also has to undergo the Medical check up before getting a Life Insurance policy in case of high sum assureds. The intent is to have a snapshot of the physical status of a life to be insured which will also disclose the details of Smoking in the report.

So, it is important to disclose the smoking related details correctly to your Insurer at the time of taking the life insurance policy. In case you don’t smoke at the time of taking the policy, but adapted the smoking habit post that, it is advisable to let your insurer know about it to avoid any future consequences.

As the saying goes” It is better to be safe than sorry”. So, it is better to pay higher premiums rather concealing the details and leaving your loved ones vulnerable in case of your absence.


Smoking will impact the cost of your  Life Insurance, which is the Premium. Smoker’s are bound to pay Higher Premiums for the higher level of health risks involved in their life. Quitting Smoking will enable you to get a standard premium rate for buying a life insurance policy and will make you healthy and hearty too.

This is a guest post by Harjot Narula.

About the Author

Harjot Singh Narula Founder comparepolicy insurance portalHarjot Narula is the founder and CEO of, an IRDAI approved insurance web aggregator focused on selling online insurance plans of various companies. Harjot has more than a decade of experience in software development and has also spent 5 years in US working for the mortgage and risk management industry.

(Disclaimer: is not biased towards any insurance company. Examples given in the blog are for the knowledge of users only)

Kindly note that is not associated with Comparepolicy. This post is for information purposes only. This is a guest post and NOT a sponsored one. We have not received any monetary benefit for publishing this article. 

(Image courtesy of zdiviv at (Post Published Date : 23-May-2016)

  • RG says:

    Bit weird questions but disturbing me from few days ..I have taken term plan as smoker , but since I am occasional smoker so I mentioned 10 years than 20 years since I am smoking/drinking will face any issue during claim , will insurance company find since when I am smoking or they will go with my declaration only during claim as I have taken smoker plan only , (2)also how insurance company determine the no.of years of smoking at the time of claim?

    • Sreekanth Reddy says:

      Dear RG,
      It is always a good practice to be honest when we are declaring an important information in proposal form/application forms like insurance.
      When did you take the policy?

  • RAJ says:

    Dear Sreekanth,
    Very nice article. Just thought i will share some facts to the blog readers. Many blog readers ask you which category they should go, whether “SMOKER” or “NON SMOKER” after they quit smoking?. Its always better to go for “SMOKER” catergory because all Insurance companies conduct Urine Cotinine test and this test finds even minute traces of Cotinine which is present in the blood even if somebody has quit smoking from long back. The risk is if they opt for NON SMOKER category and if Urine Cotinine test is POSITIVE, insurance companies dont disclose the result immediately and nor they charge high premium. They use this as a TOOL to reject death claim telling that Insured has given false declaration. Majority of claim rejection is on this basis as is evident from complaints of Nominees. I keep reading the complaints of nominees on various online platforms and news papers. Recently, i read in news paper, where Bajaj Allianz has rejected claim in the 4th year of insurance for a term plan because of false declaration. Even though Sec 45 is there for protection of nominee, they have to run to court to get justice. This is the main risk involved in declaring as NON SMOKER.
    The major drawback of Urine Cotinine test is it detects person is SMOKER or NON SMOKER, but DOESNOT detect SMOKER WHO LEFT SMOKING, AND NOW A NON SMOKER.
    I also advice the customers to get a copy of medical test reports from the insurance company as well as also get the same from the laboratory from which they got their tests done, to check for any discrepancies and bring it to the notice of insurance company immediately. Not only this, please inform & teach your nominee about all these things so that they know what to do if claim is rejected on such basis.


  • Deepan says:

    Hello sir,
    I have consumed cigarette in my past years like 3 or 4 no’s weekly and later I quit and not on regular basis. Last year I can say I took around 10 or 15 no’s for the whole year.
    Now I’m sure I will not consume a single cigarette from now or in the future.
    So if I open Term insurance plan now ,what I should mention – I’m Smoker /Non-Smoker.

    Plz suggest LIC is best or HDFC click to protect is best ??

  • MANJEET says:

    Very very Thanks, sir

  • MANJEET says:

    Dear Sir, l take an online term plan policy by Max life of RS 70 lak. for 30 yrs. Sir, I already tell the company person on telephone that I was a smoker before 3 years but now I am not smoking last 3 years than they say that you come in nonsmoker category. Sir, there is no performa like show by you in this post. in my policy. After My medical is O.k & then company issue me the policy .I am 38 yrs old & my health is very good.
    Sir, in my policy paper there is no mention my 3 year past smoking habit.
    Sir my question is that at time of claim can company reject my claim or not.
    Thanks In advance.

    • Dear Manjeet,
      As per Maxlife, if one has consumed tobocco related products then he/she will be classified as a smoker. If you have not been smoking for the last 3 years then you can be a non-smoker.

      Also, as per the recent amendment to Section 45 of the Insurance Act, If your policy is 3 yrs old, no matter what happens, the life insurance company will not be able to deny the claims. So, your life insurance company has only 3 years in hand to reject the policy based on any mis-representation or mis-statement. Once 3 policy years are completed then the life insurance company has to settle the claims and can not reject them.

      • Sanjay Prasad says:

        Hi Sir,

        I think Max is now considering only 1 year for smoker/non-smoker criteria. However, no insurance company is revealing/mentioning it anywhere what criteria they follow to decide whether a person is smoker or non-smoker. Only while filling the online proposal form, we can get to know it that too after selecting Smoker/Non-smoker option and premium calculation. Or else, we have to ask the Customer Care.

  • MAYUR DUBEY says:

    Hi, I recently took, or rather propose to took, term insurance cover of Rs.50 lakhs for a term of 40yrs that includes a critical illness rider of Rs.10 lakhs. I am 24 and a smoker (conservative) and have communicated well to the company. I undergone a medical test aboiy a fortnight ago but since then haven’t received any communication from the insurance company. I tried contacting them but they replied that my proposal is still in the processing stage. In the medical tests performed on me the EGC was somewhat messy…which could well be the result of malfunctioning of tje device as I heard the docs. saying “abhi toh sahi karai thi..phir kharab ho gayi kya..”…and the docs. told me…”sir aapki ECG thodi gadbad aa rahi hai…sayad aapko dubara bulaya jaye..”…however I received no further call for ECG..
    Can you plz. tell me how long does it take to approve or reject the proposal…and if the proposal gets rejected will the insurance cos. mentions/revels the reason fro rejection…Can I contest the rejection?

    My plan was HDFC C2P+


    • Hey, MAYUR DUBEY

      Insurance companies usually do not reject unless there is a serious pre-existing disease which is found. If there are some medical issues found in the test, an insurance company may put some loading on top of the premium initially communicated (collected) from you. You have the right to either pay the balance amount and get a policy for a higher amount or get your complete money back.

      Having said that, the company normally does not take more than a week to get back to you in case there is rejection or counter offer. Since it has taken a fortnight, we would suggest you get in touch with HDFC over phone. In case you are not able to get hold of them, you can leave a message on with your application details and we would help you get an answer as soon as possible.

    • Sanjay Prasad says:

      I have seen few complaints about HDFC that it takes more time to issue the policy, nearly 45 days or even more. That is why, even after finalizing HDFC, I have taken it from other insurer finally. Better to go with the insurer who is aggressive in the business but make sure you provide all details honestly. 45 days is a quite long time and one can’t be UN-insured for that period when you are getting covered within 7-10 days by the other insurer.

  • Hey Sreekanth,

    Thanks for sharing this valuable information. I am a regular reader of your blog and looking forward to read these types of informative articles. For sure, I will refer this write-up to my friends.
    Quitting tobacco not only saves your life and your family’s life, but it also helps you get a life insurance policy at lower premium rates.

    Have a Nice Day >!! Happy Blogging 🙂

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