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Policyholders need to ensure that they disclose their status if they’re a smoker, or face their finances going up in flames.

Under lockdown, 88% of South African smokers were unable to buy cigarettes for some time, and for many, it may have been an opportune time to kick the habit.

According to the South African Demographic and Health Survey (SADHS), 21.9% of South Africans smoke. Karen Bongers, Product Development Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life, says the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of noting the health and financial implications of being a smoker.

Smoking, after all, is costly in more ways than one. Apart from the cost of cigarettes, smokers may pay significantly more in premiums when taking out life insurance compared to non-smokers. This is due to statistical evidence that smoking greatly increases one’s risk of developing and succumbing to certain diseases.

Bongers explains that life insurance companies need to know their clients’ smoking status in order to charge premiums that are aligned with their clients’ risk. Should it come to light that you were a smoker when you applied for a policy but did not disclose it, your claim payout may be reduced as a result. In certain cases, a claim may be declined altogether if the knowledge of the smoker status coupled with certain health conditions would have resulted in the application being declined, says Bongers.

“In certain cases, a claim may be declined altogether if the knowledge of the smoker status coupled with certain health conditions would have resulted in the application being declined,” says Karen Bongers, Product Development Actuary at Sanlam Individual Life.

Savera Kalideen, Executive Director of the National Council Against Smoking (NCAS) notes that tobacco products – including pipes, e-cigarettes, hookahs and cigarettes – can cause serious harm, ranging from respiratory illnesses to cardiovascular disease and more than 25 types of cancers.

The NCAS also believes smokers are more likely to contract a more severe form of COVID-19, due to evidence from countries such as China. Kalideen notes that a smoker who gets infected with COVID-19 is more likely to be hospitalised, and at greater risk of getting pneumonia, which could decrease the chance of recovery.

To assist South Africans who want to quit smoking, the NCAS runs a telephone counselling quit line on 011 720 3145. They also have a 30-day WhatsApp group which callers can join for support for their first 30 days of quitting.

 

 

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