life insurance for smokersWhen I tell people that I used to smoke, they are completely shocked. Being a health nut and Crossfitter, that’s the last thing that people would expect that I would do.

To my defense, it was during a stressful time in my life. While I was deployed to Iraq I smoked a cigarette at least every day. It even got to the point to where I was buying cartons of cigarettes.

My wife wasn’t keen on the idea, but I promised her when I returned I would quit for good. Since I got back home in 2006, I’ve smoked (I think) 3 cigarettes total.

How’s that for going cold turkey?

If you smoke, it’s going to hurt your life insurance rates. Since this habit carries so many health risks, smokers generally need to pay more for their coverage and also could have a more complicated application process.

If you handle your application properly though, you can minimize the extra costs you’ll need to pay. Here is a complete guide to life insurance for smokers to help you get prepared.

How Much Higher are Smoker Rates

Most smokers realize their life insurance rates will be more expensive, but many are shocked by just how high their rates actually are. A smoker in his 30s can expect to pay about two to three times as much for a policy than a nonsmoker. A smoker in his 40s can expect to pay three to four times as much.

Insurance companies charge this massive price increase because smokers have such a higher risk of death than nonsmokers. In addition, smokers often have other health problems like a poor diet or an inactive lifestyle. This is just one more example of how it pays to quit smoking.

Sample Life Insurance Quotes for Smokers

30 Year Old Male
20 Year $500k Policy
40 Year Old Male
20 Year $500k Policy
50 Year Old Male
20 Year $500k Policy
Preferred Plus
Non- Smoker

Testing for Tobacco

If you are a smoker, you won’t be able to hide this fact. First of all, your life insurance application will ask you directly about whether you smoke. You need to be honest and say yes because if you don’t, it’s a form of insurance fraud.

Most policies also require that you see a nurse or doctor for a medical exam. As part of this exam, you’ll need to give your blood and urine for testing. The insurance company will check to see if tobacco shows up in either. If you test positive for tobacco but reported that you didn’t smoke, your odds of getting a fair insurance rate plummet.

Even if you can hide your smoking from the insurance company, you’re still taking on a big risk. The first two years of a life insurance policy are known as a contestability period. If you die during this time and the insurance company discovers that you were smoking, it can deny paying out your death benefit. Being honest is the best way to deal with smoking.

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Cigars, Electronic Cigarettes, and Chewing Tobacco

If you smoke cigars, electronic cigarettes, or chew tobacco, you should make sure to note this distinction with your insurance agent. All these forms of tobacco would show up on your blood test and could get you rated as a smoker.

However, insurance companies are sometimes more lenient with these types of tobacco use. For example, some companies give a non-smoker rating to applicants that only use chewing tobacco. If you only smoke cigars a few times a year, you might also be able to qualify for a non-smoker rating by not smoking for several weeks before your application.

If you only smoke electronic cigarettes, some companies charge a lower penalty than if you smoked regular cigarettes.

The best rule of thumb is to let your insurance agent know what’s going on ahead of time so you the underwriting department won’t just assume you smoke cigarettes.

Quitting Smoking Helps

You can use your life insurance bill as one more motivation to quit smoking. If you smoke now and can only get a smoker rate, you could still qualify for a discount later on. You need to quit smoking for at least one year. At this point, you can request another health exam. If you come through clear as a nonsmoker, your insurance company will start charging you the lower nonsmoker rates.

Smoker Case Study

I had a 34 year-old male client that was seeking $250,000 of term life coverage.  He had been smoking for most of his adult life but was determined to quit.  He had two young children so getting some life insurance coverage was a major concern of his.  He had stopped smoking for just 4 months so it he would have still been subject to smoker rates. What I suggested was to take out a shorter term policy (10 years vs. 30 years) to make sure he had the coverage he needed while not having to pay a fortune to have it.

The only reason I suggested this was because I knew my client was serious about quitting. If you’ve been trying to kick the habit for years and have been unsuccessful, get the full term of life insurance you need.

Find the Right Company

Each life insurance company has a different process and different rates for smokers. In addition some treat all forms of tobacco the same while others make a distinction for cigars, electronic cigarettes and/or chewing tobacco. Taking the time to find the right match for your situation could make a big impact on your insurance premiums.

To help you in your search, you can work with an independent insurance broker like our company. We regularly work with smokers so we are experts in this market. We can show you how to put together a smart application and match you up with the best companies for your needs. To learn more about our service, call or fill out our online application form for free life insurance quotes.

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Comments | 3 Responses

  1. says

    In college I used to smoke, however once I graduated and was accepted at my first job, I needed to pass a drug test. I originally thought that they were only testing me for drugs but my company was also testing for tobacco use for health insurance reasons. It took a few months but for 5 years, I have been tobacco free!

  2. says

    I never smoked although I tried once. Smoking will do more than just get you a higher insurance rate! It will affect your health and ultimately shorten your life.

  3. says

    The tests they use to see if you’re smoking detect a compound called cotinine, which is a metabolite of nicotine. So if you’ve consumed anything with nicotine (cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc), it will be detected. Cotinine sticks around in your body for a while so you’d have to go cold turkey for a couple of weeks if you wanted to cheat the system.

    Also, if you take nicotine gum or use the nicotine patch, you can expect positive tests. So you should be honest about this when filling out your life insurance forms.

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