The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports close to 500,000 Americans die prematurely each year as a result of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Another 16 Million Americans live with a serious illness that is directly caused by a smoking habit.
So it is no wonder that life insurance companies ask all applicants if they are (or are not) smokers. It’s pretty obvious, if you are indeed a smoker then your chances for dying prematurely are much higher than your non-smoking peers.
Being one of the 40 Million Americans that do smoke does not preclude you from buying affordable life insurance. It just means you will most likely pay quite a bit more in premium – usually double the premium of a non-smoker. However, you can still secure life insurance. Considering the CDC statistics it seems you probably should secure life insurance as soon as possible.
As a result, when looking for life insurance for smokers, you want to be careful to have the information necessary in order to find the best coverage for you and your family, and at affordable rates too.
In this article, we will shed light on the answers to 10 frequently asked questions about life insurance for smokers in order to help you get a better idea of what to expect when it comes to your life insurance options.
1. Do Smokers Really Pay More for Life Insurance than Non-Smokers?
The amount you will pay varies by insurance carrier. Typically, the rates for smokers life insurance are up to 2-5 times higher than those for people who are non smokers.
To give you an idea of how smoking can profoundly impact premium, please check out the sample rates below. Here are sample premiums for a $250,000 permanent whole life insurance policy. This chart clearly illustrates the significant increase in premiums for those who smoke.
|Age||Non-Smoker Rates||Smoker Rates|
|25 year old male||$76||$140|
|35 year old male||$109||$210|
|45 year old male||$157||$322|
|55 year old male||$246||$514|
|65 year old male||$417||$861|
2. What Do Insurance Companies Consider a Smoker?
The degree of smoking you do does not matter all that much to life insurers. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes each day or puff one cigar on special occasions – insurance companies generally look at you as a smoker.
There is little wiggle room. Any level of nicotine use will qualify you for smoker rates. This includes e-cigarettes, nicotine gum and patches, pipes, cigars, and smokeless tobacco dips.
Working with an experienced life insurance agent will be very helpful in navigating this type of question. Depending on your smoking status, your insurance agent will be able to direct you to the best life insurance company for your particular situation. So if you smoke cigars or a pipe a few times each year, your agent may be able to find an insurer that has more lenient guidelines for those types of applicants.
3. Should I Just Keep My Smoking Habit To Myself?
It will never work anyway! First, the insurance company will have you go through a para-medical exam. This means a nurse is going to come to your home and have you submit blood and urine specimens. One of the things the life insurer will test for is tobacco use.
Second, even if you are able to skip the medical exam, most life insurance plans have a two year contestability period. This means the insurance company has the right to cancel your policy, jack up your rates, or even deny the death claim if they find you lied on your application.
So even if you are able to fool the insurance company now – your loved ones may suffer later when they go to collect your life insurance.
4. Will My Life Insurance Be Costly Because I Smoke Cigars?
In fact, there are a few life insurance companies that may even offer you a preferred rate or a non-smoker rates considering you only smoke occasionally.
Keep in mind, each life insurer defines irregular cigar smoking differently. For example, the insurance company may consider 4 cigars each year as non-smoking. On the other hand, smoking 12 cigars annually may put you in the higher risk category and you’ll end up with smoker rates anyway.
This is true for anyone that uses nicotine gum or patches, chew, or dip as well. Some insurance companies will assign you non-smoker rates even if you enjoy any of these nicotine fixes.
By working with an experienced life insurance agent, you will know better what to expect for as an outcome.
5. Can Life Insurance Companies Test for Smoking?
This examination can detect cotinine within your body up to one month back if administered by a urine or blood test. These are the typical methods for administering a smokers test for life insurance. Occasionally, on larger life insurance policies, the carrier will have your hair tested, which can track smoking from years back.
Plus, you have to remember, the insurance company is going to get copies of your medical records. If you are a smoker then your medical history will include this in detail.
6. I Used to Smoke, But Now I Don’t. Can I Get a Non-Smoking Rate Now?
If you have been smoke-free for a minimum of 12 months, then you should probably talk with your insurance agent about getting a “reconsideration” on your existing life insurance coverage.
Most policies allow for one reconsideration during the term of the policy. In this scenario, your agent will notify the insurance carrier that you wish to have a reconsideration completed. This will be a min-application process and the life insurer will review and re-assess your application.
In some cases, the insurance carrier will not approve a review of your existing policy. Instead, they will want you to submit a brand new application for an entirely new life insurance policy. Your insurance agent will be able to tell you the specific policy for your particular life insurer.
A tip for you: be sure that you go to your primary care doctor and let him/her know you have been smoke-free and for how long. The doctor will note your file and that will help support your reconsideration request.
7. Should I Just Wait Until I Quit Smoking to Apply for Life Insurance?
First, age is a big influence on life insurance rates. Today is the youngest you will ever be again. If you put off applying for life insurance until you quit smoking, how old will you be then? How long will kicking the tobacco habit take? If you have to wait until after another birthday comes and goes, your life insurance rate will go up.
Second, you could experience health challenges before you get the chance to apply. Now you’ll be a non-smoker but you’ll still experience higher rates. In the worst case scenario, you may be declined coverage because of your health condition.
Third, by waiting to get life insurance, you are putting your loved ones at risk. Something could happen to you at any moment- such as a car accident or cardiac arrest. How will your loved ones manage without having a life insurance policy available? Is saving a bit of money now worth putting your family in financial jeopardy?
Remember, you may secure life insurance now and then go through the reconsideration process once you are smoke-free for a minimum of one year.
8. What Happens If I Started Smoking After Getting Life Insurance?
During that process, the company may find out that you did become a smoker and could potentially deny your death claim. Or the insurer may calculate what your smoking premiums should have been and deduct that amount from the face amount due your family.
If you pass away after the contestability period then your family may have no issue collecting your life insurance policy. Except if you pass away from a smoking related illness. If the life insurer comes across this information then your beneficiaries will probably be denied the policy benefit.
9. I’m a Smoker and I Know My Rates Will Be High. What Else Can I Do To Keep My Premiums Low?
Perhaps it’s time to lose a few pounds or keep your blood sugar in check so the life insurance company will find you to be a worthy risk.
There are also a few life insurance companies that give very affordable life insurance rates for smokers. We have made a list of the best life insurance companies for smokers, which can help you find the most affordable coverage for you and your loved ones.
Working with a knowledgeable independent life insurance agent will be very helpful. Our agents work with some of the best life insurance companies to help our clients find affordable life insurance for smokers.
10. I Smoke Marijuana, Can I Still Get Life Insurance?
Each life insurance company views marijuana use differently. Some will rate you the same as a tobacco smoker. Others will not factor-in your pot smoking at all when it comes to your application.
With marijuana becoming more and more widely accepted in terms of both medicinal and recreational use, most life insurance companies are treating it with the same risk as smoking cigarettes, and giving marijuana smokers similar rates as smokers.
Wrapping it Up
The bottom line is to always tells the truth. Glossing over important information when applying for life insurance is never a great idea. In most cases, it doesn’t work anyway. So we highly recommend you are forthcoming about your smoking habits – whether it’s e-cigarettes, cigars, or pot.
To help yourself save some money, you can certainly control other factors such as your weight, blood sugar, and risky lifestyle choices. If you are able to kick the smoking habit in the future, you can certainly go through the reconsideration process or even apply for an entirely different life insurance plan.
By working with a life insurance agent, you will be better off during the application process. The agent will determine the best life insurer for your unique situation and they will make sure everything goes smoothly.
Waiting to secure life insurance until you are smoke-free is never a good solution. By doing so, you are putting your family in a precarious situation. Why wait to get insurance just so you can save a bit of money? What if you die prematurely before getting life insurance established? How will your family handle your funeral expenses and any debts left behind?