If you smoke, you’re probably aware of the fact that it can affect your health. Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the us. US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking is responsible for 480,000 deaths (or 1 in 5 deaths) per year.
And here’s another nasty side effect of smoking: significantly higher life insurance rates. smokers can pay nearly four times as much for a life insurance policy compared to someone who doesn’t smoke.
Can smokers take out life insurance?
yes, smokers can get life insurance. but you should expect to pay higher rates than a non-smoker. That’s because tobacco use is a proven health risk and affects your life expectancy. Your life expectancy is a major cost factor when life insurance companies set their rates.
You may be denied a life insurance policy as a smoker if you also have certain medical conditions, such as smoking-related illnesses. You can also be denied a policy if you lie about your tobacco use on your application.
related: how does life insurance work?
what counts as “smoking”?
so what counts as smoking? cigarettes are an obvious candidate. but there are many other forms of “nicotine delivery systems” that can identify you as a “smoker”, “tobacco user” or “nicotine user” when shopping for life insurance:
- vaping & electronic cigarettes
- bidis (thin hand-rolled cigarettes)
- chewing tobacco
- dissolvable tobacco
- nicotine replacement therapies (patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nasal sprays)
- heated tobacco products
- prudence is generally lenient when it comes to cigar smokers. You are considered a non-smoker if you haven’t smoked a cigarette in 12 months, but you can smoke a pipe, cigar, or chew tobacco. however, you may not get the best rates without tobacco.
- legal & General America will consider you a smoker if you have used any of these in the last 12 months: cigarettes, pipes, smokeless tobacco, chewing tobacco, electronic cigarettes, vaping, and nicotine substitutes such as patches and gum.
- medical records. requesting your medical records is a routine part of many life insurance applications. nicotine use will likely be noted in your records.
- pharmaceutical databases. Life insurers often obtain lists of your past and current prescriptions. nicotine use could be listed here, like a prescription for a smoking cessation medication.
- Previous health and life insurance applications. A company called mib stores your past responses to individual health and life insurance applications. if your previous answers are different, it would be marked here.
- Social Media. Insurance companies are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook to seek evidence of factors affecting rates.
- The sound of your voice. Verisk provides life insurance companies with analytics that predict whether you’re a smoker based on the sound of your voice, combined with other data, such as demographic and socioeconomic information. When you answer life insurance application questions over the phone, a common step, called a tele-interview, may be recorded. verisk can analyze these recordings and flag people who are likely to be smokers.
- compare quotes. The most effective way to find the lowest rates is to compare life insurance quotes across multiple insurers.
- insurance policy packages. You can usually get a discount if you bundle your life insurance with other policies from the same company, like auto insurance and home insurance.
- request a new rating. If you’re a smoker who already has a life insurance policy, request a new rating if you quit smoking for at least 12 months. this may require a new life insurance medical exam, and you could end up paying more if you developed any new medical conditions since your last medical exam.
Marijuana users are also sometimes considered smokers, depending on whether their use is occasional or regular.
Regular cigar smokers will generally be considered smokers. But many life insurers will give you a non-smoking rate if you smoke cigarettes infrequently, like one or less per month.
Each life insurance company decides whether you are a “smoker” or not, and the parameters can vary significantly. for example:
why do smokers have different life insurance rates?
Life expectancy is the basis for life insurance rates. therefore, factors that affect your possible “mortality” or life insurance expectancy are factored into life insurance quotes.
Cigarette use among adults is at an all-time low of 14%, according to the most recent report from the Surgeon General. but 16 million Americans have a smoking-related disease. And you don’t have to already have health consequences to lock in higher life insurance rates. simply being a smoker will usually push you into higher rates when you buy life insurance.
life insurance rates for smokers and non-smokers
Get ready for high life insurance quotes if you’re a smoker. we found that smoking rates will easily be double or triple the non-smoking rate. The increase will vary based on your age, gender, and coverage amount, but here are examples of average quote increases for a $500,000 20-year term life insurance policy.
non-smoking and smoking term life insurance rates
How do life insurance companies find out you’re a smoker?
When completing an application for life insurance, it’s crucial to be truthful with all of your answers. life insurance companies have many ways to verify everything you have stated on the application.
A primary method of verification is a life insurance medical exam, which typically includes taking blood and urine samples. these samples will reveal cotinine in your system, which is a byproduct of nicotine. cotinine can also be detected in saliva and hair samples. but the cotinine test is not foolproof. smokers can go unnoticed if they haven’t smoked in a day or two.
About 43% of life insurance applicants did not disclose their smoking habits, according to examone, which conducts medical exams for life insurance companies. that’s based on the number of people who had cotinine in their screening test but said they didn’t smoke. the youngest applicants are the most likely not to disclose their tobacco use.
Life insurance companies have a vested interest in weeding out smokers who don’t tell the truth. Life insurers lose an estimated $3.4 billion a year in premiums due to undisclosed tobacco use, according to Verisk, a data analytics provider.
Among other ways a company could find out if you smoke or use other types of nicotine:
How long do you have to quit smoking to be considered a non-smoker for life insurance?
Generally, if you have not smoked for 12 months or more, you are considered a non-smoker. Quit time rules vary between insurance companies.
what happens if I quit later?
If you bought life insurance at a smoking rate and have now quit smoking for at least a year, you may be able to get a better price. You can ask your life insurance company how long you have to quit to be considered a non-smoker.
If you have exceeded that time limit, you may request that the fee be reconsidered. That means you’ll take a new life insurance medical exam and your health will be reassessed. if you have also developed new medical conditions in the meantime, they will also be factored into the new rate. therefore, getting a new rating is not necessarily easy after quitting
what if I start smoking after buying life insurance?
Once you buy a policy, a life insurance company cannot increase your rates. So if you start deep-sea diving or smoking afterward, you’ll still enjoy the life insurance rates you’ve already insured. the same applies to health conditions you develop after purchasing a policy.
The risk to life insurers of you starting to smoke later in life is quite low. Almost 90% of cigarette smokers try cigarettes for the first time before the age of 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Can I avoid a life insurance medical exam as a smoker?
Not all life insurance policies require a medical exam. Some types of policies, like guaranteed issue life insurance, require no exam and no health questions. rates are based on your age, gender, and amount of coverage.
Because the life insurer doesn’t have your medical information, these types of policies are among the most expensive you can buy. they also tend to offer only low amounts of coverage, such as $5,000 to $25,000. You can still do better by buying traditional life insurance and resigning yourself to having a medical exam and paying smoking fees.
how to find the best life insurance rates for smokers
The key to finding the best rates of life, whether you use nicotine or not, is to shop around. An independent insurance agent can help you shop around and get quotes from insurers that tend to be nicotine-friendly.
Here are some tips for smokers to find the best life insurance rates.
You may be wondering if it’s a good idea to quit smoking and then apply for a life insurance policy. While this might get you better rates, it’s generally not a good idea to wait to buy life insurance.
For example, you could develop a new health condition while you’re quitting, which could result in higher rates. Or worse yet, you could die without a valid policy, leaving your dependents in a bind.