London, Feb 23 (UNI) Life insurance firms in Britain, which is in an epidemic of obesity, have imposed a 'fat tax' on the obese.
Around 50 per cent extra could be charged on new premiums - and the threshold at which the higher rate starts will be lowered.
The increased charge can be up to 400 per cent if a person falls into other high risk categories, such as being a smoker or having previous medical conditions.
For a 55-year-old man who is a healthy non-smoker with no weight problems, life insurance should cost about 1,000 pounds a year for 150,000 pounds of cover. If he were obese, the annual premium on a 25-year policy could cost an extra 500 pounds.
"If you are obese, you are at greater risk of contracting certain diseases. It is just the same as increasing the premium for a smoker or somebody with previous medical conditions, '' a spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said.
Yesterday Britain's biggest life insurer, Legal&General, said 13 per cent of new applicants face paying the higher premiums - which start on anyone with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30, the Daily Mail reported.
A BMI of 30 or more is now one of the most common reasons for the price hike. The threshold used to be nearer 40 but has been lowered as the full scale of the obesity crisis has been revealed.
''Most people understand that poor diet and lack of exercise can lead to health problems but they might not realise that being significantly overweight would also make their life insurance more expensive,'' Russ Whitworth, L&G's director of underwriting and claims, said.
"Although it is not an exact science, we find that BMI is the best indicator of the risk of being overweight, so it pays to stay in shape,'' he added.
Other insurers also confirmed last night that they charge fat people at least 50 per cent extra.
''In an ideal world, insurers want the healthier clients. There is an element of cherry picking. They don't want the burden of the heavier clients,'' Matt Morris, a policy adviser at Life Search, a specialist financial adviser, said.
Nearly one in four adults and 16 per cent of children in the country have weight problems that threaten their health and can lead to cancer, heart problems, liver disease and diabetes.
Official figures revealed this week that a quarter of children are overweight before they have even started school. By secondary school entry of 11, the figures rises to one in three.
UNI XC MS AS1742