Monthly Archives: March 2014

E-cigaretteWhat are e-cigarettes?

In June 2013, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimated there are 1.3 million current users of e- cigarettes in the UK.

Unlike regular cigarettes, e-cigarettes don’t contain any tobacco, however almost all contain nicotine.

With smoking being the largest preventable cause of premature death in the UK, e-cigarettes are promoted as a cheaper and safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, to those who are unable, or unwilling to stop using nicotine.

The majority of e-cigarettes contain a battery, an atomizer and a replaceable or refillable cartridge. The cartridge contains the nicotine along with other substances and often flavorings.

What are the health effects of e-cigarettes?

Although cutting out tobacco and moving to nicotine replacement products is a positive step for your health, the majority of e-cigarettes still contain nicotine.

Nicotine is often considered as the most addictive psychoactive drug – equivalent to, if not more so than, alcohol, cocaine and even heroin. It comes with its own health effects which include increasing your heart rate, increasing your blood pressure and slowing down your body’s ability to heal itself, by making your skin dehydrated. Nicotine users are therefore at a higher risk of heart or circulatory related problems, for example heart attack and stroke, than those who use no nicotine products. Currently, there’s limited scientific evidence on the health effects of the other chemicals in e-cigarettes.

 How do e-cigarettes affect your insurance?

Most insurance companies have separate charges (or ‘rates’ as they’re known in the industry) for ‘smokers’ and ‘non-smokers’ – with smoker rates being more expensive.

Due to the health effects of nicotine, and the high risk of using tobacco products again in the future, non- smoker rates are only available for applicants who haven’t used any nicotine products in the last 12 months – including regular cigarettes and all nicotine products including e-cigarettes, patches and gum etc. When you apply for non-smoker rates, we may ask for a simple medical test (saliva sample) to confirm that nicotine hasn’t been used.

If you don’t currently meet the criteria for non-smoker rates, this shouldn’t put you off applying for the insurance you need now. The good news is we can look into changing your policy to non-smoker rates – once you’ve been nicotine-free for at least 12 months. To be able to change your policy, you may be asked for a signed statement along with a saliva sample.

To find out more about Life Insurance and for a personal illustration, please give one of our qualified advisers a call or email us via “Contact Us”  page with your requirements.

 

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Bank of EnglandToday UK interest rates have been held at 0.5% for another month, the Bank of England has said.

The decision by the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee comes five years after the record low level was first introduced.

It is the first rate decision since the bank amended its “forward guidance” policy that linked borrowing rates to unemployment figures.

Rates are unlikely to rise before the spring of 2015, analysts believe.

The Bank also kept its £375bn quantitative easing (QE) programme unchanged.

The half-decade of ultra-low interest rates has seen returns on savings hammered, while mortgage borrowers have reaped the benefits of lower repayments.

Help to BuyEquity loans taken out under the Help to Buy scheme since its inception have reached a total value of £600m, government figures have revealed.

Since the scheme launched in April 2013 14,823 equity loans have completed to the end of January, 89% of which were for first-time buyers.

Leeds topped the table as the council which completed the most purchases with 268.

The Help to Buy equity loan scheme can be used to purchase a new build property up to the value of £600,000 with a 20% equity loan up to a maximum of £120,000.

The government has set aside a pot of £3.5bn to service the equity loan scheme.

The availability of a government loan to purchase a new build home helped to drive up house building activity last year.

Planning permissions granted in 2013 reached their highest level since 2007 climbing to 174,471, a report from the House Builders Federation showed.

The report revealed the scheme was delivering around 2500 reservations a month.

But despite the upward trend, the 2013 total figure is still short of meeting the country’s annual housing demands.

The Office of National Statistics predicted that 232,000 households are projected to form each year.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the HBF, said: “Help to Buy equity loan is increasing demand for new homes and the industry is increasing its output as a result.

House prices rising at fastest rate for four years

House prices rose by 0.6% in February, a 9.4% increase on the same month in 2013, according to the Nationwide Building Society.

The annual rate of growth is the fastest for almost four years.

It puts the average price of a UK home at £177,846, which is still almost 5% below the 2007 peak.

The Nationwide said sales and prices were being driven by record low interest rates, higher employment and the easier availability of mortgages.

The lender’s chief economist, Robert Gardner, acknowledged that prices could accelerate even faster in the coming months, as more people took the plunge to buy for the first time or move. But he denied a house price “bubble” was being created.

“If you look at prices relative to earnings then housing does look relatively expensive by historic standards,” Mr Gardner told BBC News.

“But if you look at how much it costs to service a typical mortgage, that suggests that housing isn’t overly expensive at this point… because interest rates are at such low levels.”

The Nationwide pointed out that prices were also being driven higher by a continued lack of new homes.

“Price growth is being supported by the fact that the supply of housing remains constrained, with housing completions still well below their pre-crisis levels,” said Mr Gardner.

He added that just 109,500 new homes were built in England in 2013, which was 38% below the level recorded in 2007, and about half the projected number of new households expected to form each year.