31 May 2014 will be the 27th annual World No Tobacco Day. Established by the World Health Organisation, the day is intended to encourage smokers to give up the substance for just 24 hours.
The health problems associated with smoking are widely known. So are the effects on general appearance, and the impact of passive smoking on your family and friends. Then come the financial implications – in terms of the actual cost of smoking, a 10-a-day habit will set you back around £1,400 in a year*.
However, as if all that wasn’t enough, smoking could also have an effect on the cost of your insurance.
If you smoke, you can of course still obtain good private health insurance.
However, in some cases you may find your health insurance premiums are higher – it’s certainly not true of every policy, but it does happen. But compare that to the US where smokers pay 50 per cent higher premiums for their essential healthcare insurance, with no NHS to fall back on, and you realise just how lucky we are in the UK.
Meanwhile, with some policies you may find your cover is limited, preventing you from claiming as much on certain conditions caused directly by smoking.
The same is often true for critical illness cover and income protection insurance. You are much more likely to become critically ill, and to need time off work. It is therefore perhaps only fair that you pay more.
The biggest difference, however, is in life insurance premiums – these can be up to twice as high for smokers, depending on their age and other factors. Over the course of a long policy, you’ll be haemorrhaging money.
And remember, although it may seem easy to fib when you first take out the insurance, if you’re found out it could invalidate your claim or drastically reduce the payout. Insurers are within their rights to check medical records, and typically randomly check around a fifth of applicants.
There are plenty of resources available to help you stop smoking – including free NHS advice and stop smoking treatments available from your GP. Some workplaces will also offer free support (see below). Of course, there’s no substitute for the support of family and friends, while willpower is the most essential element.
Once you have quit smoking and have been smoke-free for a year, contact your insurance provider or broker to discuss reducing your premiums.
If you’re an employer, business owner or manager, you might consider investing in a business health cash plan or similar that includes health and wellbeing support for staff. This can include help to give up smoking, in addition to other issues such as managing weight and fitness, or stress and anxiety.
Surely any employer will strive for a healthier, happier workplace, and you might even see a reduction in sickness absence. But furthermore, you’ll be reducing the risk of passive smoking and protecting your wider workforce.
So for this year’s World No Tobacco Day, make sure you, your loved ones or your colleagues join in. Although saving money on insurance may interest you, the benefits to your health and life expectancy will most likely be reason enough.
*Approx £4 per pack of 10 x 365