Your Health and Finances Up in Smoke
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Your Health and Finances Up in Smoke

By Karen Bongers, 5 June 2020

May marked Anti-tobacco Month, with World No Tobacco Day falling on the 31st of May. With lockdown regulations meaning that 88% of South African smokers haven’t been able to buy cigarettes for some time, now may be the best time for many to quit.

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 it’s important to remember the health and financial implications of being a smoker, especially now during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Smoking Costs You in More Ways than One

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 diseases 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 a greater risk of getting pneumonia, which could decrease his or her chance of recovery.

Smoking is costly in more ways than one. Apart from the cost of cigarettes, being a smoker means you may pay significantly more in premiums when taking out life insurance in comparison 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 be aware of their clients’ smoking status 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.

Help Is Available If You Want to Quit

To assist South Africans who want to quit smoking, the NCAS runs a telephonic counselling quit line on +27 11 720 3145. They also have a 30-day WhatsApp group which callers can join for support during their first 30 days of quitting. “With the ban on tobacco product use still in place, there has never been a better time to make the decision to stop smoking, which will not only improve your health, but your finances as well,” concludes Bongers.


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