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Life Insurance for Smokers Over 50  

Written by Jason Patterson

Maybe you don’t have life insurance or are worried you don’t have enough, but there’s a problem. You are over 50 and you wonder if your age prohibits you from obtaining coverage.

Also you have another concern, you use tobacco. You’ve heard insurance companies are not favorable to smokers. Will being a smoker over 50 make life insurance unavailable?

Here’s the good news. Life Insurance is still available for smokers over 50. And you don’t have to sacrifice coverage at ridiculous pricing to get it.

How Do Insurance Companies View People Over 50?

how do life insurance companies view 50 year old smokers

Understanding this question first will help you find the best coverage and price.

Think for a second like a life insurance company. When do they pay claims? Life insurance won’t activate coverage until the policyholder dies and their loved ones receive the financial benefit of the product.

In order to offer this benefit, insurance companies consider two major factors when pricing their product.  The first criteria that determines how they price an individual risk is life expectancy. Secondly, insurance companies pool risks and spread that risk over a wide variety of customers.

You don’t have to be an actuary to understand that a 20 year has a much longer average life expectancy than a 50 year old. If an insurance company priced based solely on age, doesn’t it stand to reason a 20 year old would be cheaper than someone over 50.

Not only is age a factor, but there are other issues that come with age insurance companies begin to examine. As we all age there is a greater likelihood for age related diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and even dementia. Any markers that might demonstrate a person is potentially susceptible to future disease begin to be considered.

Health markers for disease are exactly why insurance companies do a medical exam for traditional life policies (there is a “no exam” policy we discuss later). Depending on the insurance company, some companies may run multiple tests from EKGs to cognitive impairment tests as people reach certain age ranges.

If the thought of multiple tests to purchase life coverage bothers you, don’t worry, not every company has the same requirements. In fact, we’ve found some that look very favorably on older customers, and make purchasing suitable coverage easy and affordable.

What About Smokers Over 50?

If being older is not favorable to insurance companies, are you worried that smoking plus being over 50 will disqualify you for any life product?

Coverage is still available.

However, insurance companies do vary their pricing on smokers because of the variety of related health issues such as:

  • Heart Disease
  • Stroke
  • Various Cancers, primarily lung cancer
  • Pulmonary Disease such as COPD
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

Outside of age, there is almost no action that impacts life expectancy as much as smoking. Because of this insurance companies, rate smokers higher than non-smokers.

To find the most competitive coverage regardless of age, one of the best actions you can take is to stop smoking. It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 60, you will pay more for life insurance if you smoke.

The good news is we can still find your competitive coverage even if you continue to smoke.

How Do Insurance Companies Find Out if You Smoke?

Do you have to tell an insurance that you are a smoker? Yes, you do. They are going to find out with blood tests designed to detect smoking. Being dishonest on the application may disqualify you for coverage, even if the company has a smoking rate.

There are a variety of ways an insurance carrier determines you are a smoker: blood, urine, and saliva tests. Each test has their advantage and difference.

Surprisingly, they aren’t really testing for nicotine in your system, but cotinine.

Cotinine is a metabolic byproduct made by the liver as it processes nicotine out of your system.

Urine tests can detect cotinine within 3-4 days of tobacco usage, and in heavy smokers it can be detected for up to 3-4 weeks. Saliva tests can be accurate up to a month. Blood tests have a shorter window of detection. With a blood test, cotinine can be detected anywhere from 3-10 days. Detection can vary with each test, because there are a variety of factors for how long nicotine remains in your blood.

An important note: Vaping liquids containing nicotine will be detected as if you were using traditional tobacco products.

Is a No Medical Exam a Better Option for Smokers Over 50?

no exam life insurance policies for smokers

One option many people, not only seniors, will use is a no medical exam plan. This obviously gets around the detection of nicotine, but will it allow you to obtain better coverage with more competitive pricing?

The main advantage of a no medical exam policy is speed. If you need coverage fast, this type of policy can be issued quickly.

The biggest disadvantage is price. On average, a no exam policy will cost more, especially if you are in good health regardless of tobacco use.

With a “no exam” policy, insurance companies assumes a wider variety of health conditions in the pricing pool, so healthy individuals will pay more to offset the risk of unhealthy people in the pool. On the other hand, if you have multiple health conditions and pre-existing issues, a no exam policy may actually be a cheaper way to go.

If you are interested in this option, make sure you mention it, when you talk to one of our agents.

How Much is Life Insurance for a Smoker?

The table below shows the average rates for smokers versus non-smokers over a 10, 20 and 30 year term policy for $200,000 of coverage for a 55 year old male who smokes 10 cigarettes per day.

Term Smoker Rates Non-Smoker Rates
10 Year $138.00/mo. $39.00/mo.
20 Year $230.00/mo. $63.00/mo.
30 Year $580.00/mo. $125.00/mo.

The difference is dramatic, and only increases as you age.  

Insurance companies will make concessions for people who have recently quit smoking. Others will often re-rate the policy if you quit smoking within a certain time period from issuing the policy. Usually this window is around 2 years.

Top Life Insurance Companies for Smokers Over 50

  1. Transamerica
  2. American General
  3. Banner
  4. Fidelity
  5. MetLife
  6. Globe
  7. Lincoln Financial
  8. Minnesota Life
  9. North American Company
  10. Prudential

Rates can vary by company not just based on age and tobacco-use, but gender and overall health and pre-existing medical issues. Because of the wide variety of factors, it is important to consult with an independent agent rather than picking a carrier based on pure name recognition.

Even within the list of companies above, there could be swings of $100/month per company. Don’t assume because you’ve heard of a company and know their reputation they will be best for your situation.

An independent agent can shop you with multiple companies. They also understand the nuances and underwriting guideline between each carrier. Also, if you have recently quit, they agent can advocate for you with a company underwriter as well.

How to Apply for Life Insurance as a Smoker

When you apply for a life insurance policy there are a handful of things to expect in the process.

Questions…lots of questions. Questions about health, weight, age, health habits, etc. will be asked.

If you opt for a policy requiring a medical exam, you will need to meet a paramedical company or they will come to you. This process is not as burdensome and lengthy as you might expect.

When you take a life medical exam, the examiner will likely:

  • Ask questions about your medical history
  • Discuss family medical history
  • Take your blood pressure and pulse
  • Check your height and weight
  • Draw a blood sample
  • Get a urine sample
  • Discuss any other lifestyle habits

The process usually takes less than 30 minutes.

Depending on your age and pre-existing conditions other tests may be requested such as an EKG, X-Ray, or Stress Test.

What Do the Exams Tell the Insurance Company?

The insurance company is looking for condition affecting five broad health categories:

  • Heart & Arteries (Cholesterol, Triglycerides, etc)
  • Kidneys & Bladder
  • Liver
  • Pancreas
  • Other…this is where they detect tobacco use

The examiner will send the information to the company so they may examining the results, finalize the rate, and issue the policy.

How Long Does the Life Insurance Application Process Take?

If you choose a no-exam policy, you could have an issued policy in a couple days. A traditional policy requiring an exam will take longer. You can speed up the process by scheduling your exam as soon as you apply for the policy. On average a traditional policy will take 4-8 weeks.

As you’ve seen there are multiple options for smokers over 50.

In fact, there are so many it helps to have an agent wade through all various company rules and guidelines for you.

Contact one of our agents, and we will help you through the process of securing the best coverage for the best price.  

Compare the best life insurance rates for smokers over 50 here

Affordable rates, insanely fast quotes


About Jason Patterson
About Jason Patterson

Jason Patterson has been in the insurance industry for over fifteen years. Starting in 2005, he became one of the first agents to sell medicare supplements online. From that small start, he grew an agency that helped thousands of people with their insurance needs in all fifty states.

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