SMOKERS FINALLY GET A break. Britons can now buy an annuity paying a 12% higher return than competing ones if they have smoked 10 cigarettes daily for the past decade. Stalwart, a small insurer, apparently believes smokers' higher mortality rates mean it'll have to pay for fewer years. Smokers don't even have to keep puffing to stay eligible.

Ghoulish? Stalwart Managing Director Mike Fuller said in a statement only that smokers would have "a better standard of living," thanks to richer payouts. While squeamish about the notion, Norwich Union Insurance Group and other giants admit they may have to follow suit if it's a winner. The contrasts are compelling. With Stalwart, a 60-year-old male smoker who pays $77,000 would get $8,624 yearly. Norwich, like other insurers, makes no distinction between smoking and nonsmoking annuitants. Yearly payout: $7,672.

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