If you’ve been looking for a good reason to quit smoking, here’s one: your premium rates for life insurance as a smoker are roughly two or three times more than what they would be if you were a non-smoker. Smokers are one group of people who pay a serious penalty when buying life insurance.
But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to get a policy for a smoker, and it is still possible to find reasonable rates if you do your homework, get multiple quotes and ask questions while you research. In this report, we will look at what constitutes smoking as far as your life insurance company is concerned, the best types of policy for you as a smoker, and other factors that matter when you are in the market for a life insurance policy.
How are smokers defined for life insurance?
When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked if you smoke. But the company won’t just take your word for it. In the medical exam, which is a requirement for most (but not all, as we’ll discuss later) policies, a sample of blood, saliva or urine will be taken. When analyzed, this will indicate if there is nicotine or cotinine, a metabolite of nicotine, in your system. If this evidence is found, you will be tagged by the company as a smoker.
Any tobacco use will be clear, whether from cigarettes, pipe smoking, chewing tobacco, vaping or cigars. The blood test will also show if your system contains THC, which indicates marijuana use. Any of these will indicate that you belong in the smoking category — and are subject to higher premium rates.
Even if you have recently quit smoking, there may be a residue of nicotine in your body. Generally, insurers want you to be nicotine-free for at least one year before you are considered to be a non-smoker.
Best types of life insurance for smokers
The best life insurance for smokers will depend on their specific needs for the policy. Even if you are a smoker, there are several policy types that you may purchase, and although you may pay more than a non-smoker would, you should be able to find more than one company that will write you a policy.
Term life insurance
Term insurance is the simplest kind of life insurance and can provide cheap life insurance for smokers. Basically, term insurance lasts for a specific number of years — usually 10, 20 or 30 — and includes a death benefit paid out if you pass away during the policy’s term. After the term is over, there is no other benefit or payback. This is the most affordable life insurance for smokers.
Whole life insurance
Whole life insurance is a type of permanent insurance that does not have a definite end date, as term insurance does. A whole life policy will remain in force as long as you pay the premium. In addition, a portion of your premium will be put into a savings vehicle that you can draw from once a certain amount has accumulated. Although whole life insurance can play a role in a comprehensive financial plan, it will not be the cheapest option for a smoker. Even a non-smoker will pay a higher premium for a whole life policy, and a smoker may pay two or three times as much.
Guaranteed issue life insurance
Guaranteed issue insurance is a unique type of policy that does not require a medical exam or health screening. If you’re a smoker or have an existing health condition, this may appeal to you. Your premiums won’t be based on your smoking behavior but will instead take into account your age, gender and the amount of coverage you’d like. But there are caveats. Generally, it is only available for smaller amounts, from $5,000-$25,000. And because the insurer is taking on the risk of a person with possible health issues, the premiums will not be low.
What happens if you lie on a life insurance application about smoking?
It’s never a good idea to lie on a life insurance application. If that lie is discovered, your insurer could withhold the death benefit from your beneficiaries — and that’s a risk you don’t want to take.
Insurers have several ways in which they may find out if you have lied. First, the life insurance smoker test that is part of the medical exam will indicate nicotine use. Your insurer may also scrutinize your medical records, past life insurance applications and even your social media feeds. They may work with an investigator to track down any traces of smoking if they have reason to suspect that you are lying.
How much more does life insurance cost for smokers?
Your life insurance cost is determined by multiple factors, including your age, gender and general health. If you add smoking to the list, your premiums may be two or three times as much as someone who doesn’t smoke.
Why the increase? Smokers are statistically more likely to die from cancer, for one thing. But cigarette smoking can also lead to other illnesses, including gastrointestinal diseases and high blood pressure. In short, it makes you a higher risk for multiple diseases that may impact your health.
What if you quit smoking?
Unless you need coverage immediately, it can be a good idea to wait at least a year after you quit smoking before applying for life insurance. Some insurers look for you to be smoke-free for at least that long to qualify for lower rates.
If you’ve recently quit and need a policy in place as soon as possible, you may be able to obtain short-term life insurance or a policy that allows you to re-negotiate your premium costs down the line after some time has passed. Ask your insurance agent if your policy will allow this.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best life insurance company?
No one company has the best life insurance for smokers since everyone has unique needs. A good place to start looking is on our listing of the Best Life Insurance Companies of 2020, all of whom offer excellent coverage at a competitive price.
Is term or whole life insurance better for a smoker?
That depends on what you’re looking for in a policy. One perk to look for in your insurance is whether you can re-negotiate your premium if your situation changes — such as when you quit smoking.
Does exposure to second-hand smoke matter to my insurer?
Probably not. But that depends on the severity of the exposure; if cotinine or nicotine show up in your blood test, you may be penalized for it, even if it’s from breathing in the smoke of others.