There are some things in life which we can control, yet others which are out of our control; and this of course includes our health and wellbeing. Whilst it would be ideal for everyone to be healthy, fit and well – unfortunately this isn’t always the case. In terms of illnesses and hereditary conditions, we cannot orchestrate who will be diagnosed with Cancer, Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, organ failure, to name a few.
However, what we can do, is reduce the risks of contracting certain illnesses and ailments which are a result of our lifestyles and life choices, such as smoking. Thus, whether you smoke or not is one of the biggest threats which concerns health advisers and insurers, as smoking is self-inflicted, and known to be the root cause of several serious and often terminal illnesses.
There are a plethora of reasons why people are compelled to start smoking and find it hard to quit in addition to its addictiveness. For some people, they use smoking as self-medication to ease feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Others feel the peer pressure socially, especially when they teenagers and into their early 20s. In addition, it can be in order to fit in in the workplace and earn a sense of camaraderie within your team. The media may play a major role from seeing bold characters smoking in films and series, to cigarette and lifestyle advertisements heretofore. Some people who are born into a household where smoking is existent, may grow up believing this is the norm and do so from learnt experience.
The effects of smoking
The damaging effects of smoking have been drilled into us, as a society, since we were a young age. From graphic warnings on cigarette boxes, to posters in GP surgeries and beyond, it’s widely understood that smoking can be detrimental, and potentially kill you. Smoking has the potential to affect your entire body and bloodstream once the chemicals have been inhaled – be it cigarettes, e-cigarettes, pipes, Vapes, Nicotine Patches.
Below are some of the most common consequences:
- 15+different cancer types: Your risk of developing cancer is affected by how much you smoke daily as well as how long you’ve been smoking for.
- Damaging your heart and blood: Smoking increases your risk of developing blood clots, heart disease, high blood pressure and having a heart attack.
- Doubling your risk of having a stroke: Smoking can reduce the oxygen levels in your blood and raise your blood pressure, which increases chances of a stroke by double.
- Developing diabetes: The damage to your cells can increase your risk of becoming resistant to insulin.
- Damaging your lungs: Smoking can lead to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia and make respiratory conditions like asthma much worse.
- Affecting fertility: It can take you longer to conceive and can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy if you’re a smoker.
- Causing premature death: On average, smoking can reduce your life expectancy by 10+ years.
The cost of smoking
Often the numbers speak for themselves: there are around 6.9 million adult cigarette smokers in the United Kingdom (Annual Population Survey), where according to the NHS, around 78,000 people in the UK die from smoking, with many more living with debilitating smoking-related illnesses each year. This figure is explosive when you think about the impact and ripple effects of these people; their contribution to society, their families and friends, the impact to the workplace, their medical expenses and so on.
Smoking is not only an expensive habit because cigarettes are a pricey purchase, but it can tally up your laundry, dental and health bills; as well as be an undoable health expense on your life and mortality. As smoking is a high-risk habit likely to result in illness, irreversible health conditions and worse, one’s premiums are set to sky-rocket.
On the other hand, quitting smoking can help your bank balance as well as your overall health now and in the future. Non-smokers are viewed as far less of health risk than smokers, and as a result are rewarded with lower private health insurance premiums. However, you can’t just give up smoking for a month and expect your health cover costs to drop. Premiums are only reduced once you’ve been a strict non-smoker for one year (provider dependent), and can provide medical evidence to that effect – be it a saliva, urine or blood test.
Life choices and how it determines your policy
Health insurance providers are interested in the lifestyle of all its clients and prospects. There are many categories which are of concern, such as an occupation which could affect your health (such as working at an electric plant, or shift work) to undesired habits such as smoking, alcohol consumption and drug abuse. The more ill a client is, the more taxing and costly it will be for both the patient and the insurer. With that said, if a health provider assumes it will be paying out frequently for issues related to smoking for example (lung disease, emphysema, and cancer), it’s clear why premiums will be higher.
Smoking is classified as a life choice; insurance providers typically class a smoker as someone who has used any tobacco products within the last 12 months. Some insurers are as strict as if you’re chewing nicotine gum you’re deemed a smoker as this could mean you haven’t fully given up the habit yet. Some insurers will only classify you as a non-smoker if you’ve given up for 12 months, whereas others will need a clean bill for 5 years.
Smokers (usually) have to pay more for health insurance, as smoking puts you at a greater risk of having health problems, so there’s a much higher likelihood of you claiming. The difference in premium between a smoker and a non-smoker can vary between 30% and 50% depending on the insurer, which is very significant. If you are a smoker, this needs to be declared upon application. It may be tempting to eliminate this information in order to reduce your premiums, however this could invalidate your healthcare policy, or even worse force it to be cancelled which will need to be declared with any future application.
Furthermore, if your smoking status changes once you’re policy has started, be it if you take up smoking or quit smoking, your provider should be notified to ensure your policy reflects accurately. Some premiums may be reduced once you’ve been a non-smoker for a certain period so it’s worth keeping them in the loop.