How Does Smoking and Tobacco Use Impact Life Insurance Premiums?

Tobacco use is on the decline, thanks to increased transparency and clinical studies that have linked chronic health impairments and cancer to cigarette smoking.   If you are currently a smoker, one of the best things you can do to avoid a chronic health concern is to talk today with your primary care provider, about a tobacco cessation plan to help you quit for good.

However, we know how hard it is to quit smoking in spite of all the evidence that demonstrates the significantly increased health risks that tobacco use involves.  If you are a currently a smoker, or if you have recently quit, here’s what you need to know about seeking life insurance coverage.

Current Smokers

If you currently smoke cigarettes, a pipe or use oral nicotine products such as vaping or chewing tobacco, life insurance companies will rate you as a Smoker Classification (Preferred Smoker or Standard Smoker).  Both classifications will in most cases, double the cost you pay (premium) for life insurance coverage.

Many Americans are surprised to learn that how long you have smoked, doesn’t factor as highly as how much you smoke.  For instance, if you have only smoked for 1-3 years you may assume that you would get a more affordable premium, than perhaps an individual who has smoked their entire life.  But that’s not necessarily true.

For social smokers (very rare to light nicotine consumption) or perhaps someone who enjoys a cigar ‘once in a blue moon’, the level of nicotine in the insurance blood labs may be an indicant of low use and can lower insurance premiums slightly.   However, if you are a daily cigarette or nicotine user, that level will be apparent in your health evaluation as part of the insurance process and will categorize you as a Standard Smoker).

Recently Quit Smoking? 

Life insurance carriers categorize someone who has quit smoking on average, for less than 12 month as a  smoker. What that means is that you still may be at risk for some of the chronic health concerns that smokers face, and they will not consider you to be a non-smoker.  But insurers do recognize a lower risk for individuals who have quit for longer than  2 years, and after two years an applicant can reapply for a Preferred Smoker rating.

After five years of smoking cessation, an individual may be rated as Preferred Best, based on their health condition.  Individuals who have quit smoking for at least a year, should consider a term life insurance policy due to lower premiums. Many also have additional riders you can add that will cover various illnesses like a heart attack,stroke or cancer.

Can You Qualify for Life Insurance as a Smoker?

Just because you currently use tobacco or have recently successful quit using nicotine products (including vape or chew), it does not disqualify you from getting coverage.  What it does mean is that as a smoker, you will not qualify for the best rates or the highest level of benefits and coverage.  But there are many carriers who specialize in higher risk health policies, so don’t be discouraged or put off investigating life insurance as a valuable financial resource and protection for your family.

Misrepresenting Your Tobacco Use for Life Insurance Qualification

What happens to your life insurance policy, if you start smoking after you qualified for coverage?  This is an important point that we want to help address for our clients.  Do not ever hide or neglect to inform your life insurance agent about your smoking habits.  It will catch up with you.

Let us explain.  If you applied for a non-medical life insurance policy (they are available for lower insurable amounts), and you become diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness related to tobacco use (lung cancer, COPD or other type of cancer), your life insurance policy will not be void, but the insurer WILL order blood work to determine if nicotine use was a factor in your health issue.  This includes policy holders who have Universal coverage and wish to withdraw for health needs, or for families who receive the benefit of a policy for a smoker.

If you have been dishonest about your use of tobacco (or other high-risk lifestyle issue including hazardous working conditions, high-injury employment or even hobbies that predispose the insured to increased risk of injury), your insurance carrier MAY adjust the benefit your family is entitled to.  It can reduce the amount of benefit that they receive significantly.

Be honest with your life insurance agent, to enable them to shop the best rates and policy coverage for you while you are classified as a Standard or Preferred smoker.  Never quit ‘quitting’ the most hazardous lifestyle habit of smoking, and work toward your 5-year anniversary of being entirely ‘smoke free’.  At that time, you’ll be able to upgrade your coverage with your personal life insurance agent and enjoy the benefits of discounted premiums.

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