How smoking affects your health insurance

It is a known fact that smoking has an adverse effect on your health. You must have seen the warning on all cigarette boxes: ‘Smoking is injurious to health’. Tobacco smoking is a leading cause of 30% of all cancer deaths and causes a 16 times higher risk of heart attack.

There are nearly 120 million smokers in India. According to the World Health Organization, India is home to about 12% of the world’s smoking population. The number of men who smoke tobacco has increased from 78 million in 1998 to 108 million in 2015. Tobacco use is responsible for the deaths of 6 million people each year. Direct tobacco consumption is responsible for more than 5 million deaths and 0.6 million deaths are due to exposure to secondhand smoke. Given the serious risks to public health, the government banned smoking in public places from 2 October 2008.

Not only your health, it also ensures that you pay higher premiums for health insurance, due to increased health risks and a shorter life expectancy. However, a non-smoker gets premium discounts as a reward for leading a healthy lifestyle. As a smoker, it is advisable not to hide your smoking habit from your health insurance company as this will help you cover the smoking related health issues.

There is a wide curiosity among people, how smoking affects health insurance and its cost. Let’s learn more about smoking and its impact on health insurance.

Smoking – what it includes

Smoking involves inhaling the smoke from burning tobacco in the form of cigarettes, cigars and beedi. Whether you are an occasional smoker or a frequent smoker, you are considered a smoker for health insurance purposes.

Smokers can purchase health insurance, but depending on the number of cigarettes you regularly smoke, an insurance company may charge an additional premium or deny your application for insurance. A smoker may also need to undergo additional health checks that can help an insurance company determine the risk factor and then bill the premium amount accordingly.

How smoking affects your health and insurance premium

Smoking has serious consequences for your health, some of which are described below.

circulatory system: Smoking results in an increased risk of heart disease and blood pressure. Buildup of fatty acids can lead to atherosclerosis.

Immune System: Smoking leads to serious and long-term illnesses. Smokers are more prone to developing ulcers, cancer, pneumonia, high blood pressure, bronchitis and other viral/bacterial/fungal infections.

Respiratory System: Smoking can damage lung functions and shortness of breath. It can cause damage to the air sacs of the lungs, increased chance of developing chronic bronchitis.

Oral Health: Smoking can lead to tooth loss, tooth staining, gum disease which can increase the risk of tooth decay.

Cancer: Long-term smoking also causes cancer of various body organs.

When it comes to health insurance, an insurance company takes into account the magnitude of illnesses and deaths due to smoking and therefore smokers must pay higher premiums in order to avail the health insurance. Typically, the insurance companies charge about 15 to 20 percent more to a smoker policyholder. Those who smoke must have additional medical checks before the insurer issues the policy to you.

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Let’s understand the premium difference between a smoker and a non-smoker.

Ritesh (non-smoker) purchases an individual health plan at the age of 30 with Rs 5 Lacs cover, for a policy term of 1 year, the annual premium amount payable is Rs 4,656. However, Raj (smoker) purchases an individual health plan, he is charged with an annual premium amount of Rs 7,552. An increase in the premium amount is only due to Ansh being in the smoking category of the premium. We can see Raj pay Rs 2896 extra due to smoking.

Smoker with existing health problems

If you are a frequent smoker who has been experiencing the symptoms of declining health and are wondering if you can get health insurance. The answer is yes, all it takes is to make honest and correct disclosures.

The insurance company then assesses the risk associated with your profile and then decides on the terms and the premium charged to provide you with health insurance. The premiums charged will be higher and there will be a waiting period for coverage of your pre-existing illnesses. In addition, if you are looking for immediate coverage for your deteriorating health condition, you can opt for a critical illness policy.


Smoking has a negative impact on your health and also on your health insurance. An insurance company will charge you a higher premium in proportion to the risk involved in providing health coverage. An important point to note is that you must disclose all pertinent information about your health and smoking habits. In the event that you are caught concealing or providing false information, the insurance company may refuse to settle the claims.