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Life-insurance companies, like most companies, are in business to make money. So, they want to insure people who are going to pay their premiums and live for a long time.
Since smoking increases your risk of dying from various diseases, you are considered more of a risk to insure than someone similar to you that does not smoke.
While the increased risk for dying makes it more expensive for smokers to purchase life insurance, it also gives smokers more incentive to find a life insurance policy they can afford. You want to make sure that if anything happens to you, your loved ones have the money they will need long after you are gone.
With a little bit of research and the right approach, smokers can find an affordable life insurance policy from the best company that will help secure their family’s financial future.
Why Smokers Pay More for Life Insurance
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone who smokes is three times more likely to die than a similar person who does not smoke.
Smoking also causes people to die prematurely, meaning much younger than the average person.
Interesting statistics about a smoker’s mortality rates from the CDC
• The life of a smoker is, on average, at least 10 years shorter than someone who does not smoke.
• If you quit before the age of 40, you might be able to reduce your risk of dying from a smoking related disease by almost 90%.
• Smoking can triple a middle-aged person’s risk of dying from heart disease
The main causes of smoking-related deaths are:
• Cancer (lung, larynx, oesophagus, and the oral cavity)
• Respiratory disease
• Heart disease
How Life Insurance Companies Define a Smoker
People who smoke several cigarettes a day and have smoked for several years would probably expect their life insurance companies to classify them as smokers. However, it is important to note that people who use other products containing tobacco may also be classified as smokers and charged more for life insurance.
Some insurance companies classify as a smoker anyone who uses the following products that contain tobacco:
A life insurance company may charge the same rate for someone who is a casual smoker or someone who smokes a pack a day. Either scenario still involves regular tobacco use, which is considered a dangerous habit and puts you at greater risk for dying in the near future.
Questions That Life Insurance Companies Ask Smokers
Some questions a life insurance company may ask you about your smoking or tobacco habits:
• Have you used a tobacco product in the last 12 months?
• What products do you use?
• How often?
How Life Insurance Companies Classify Smokers
Life insurance companies classify people based on the information you provide on the application and the results from your medical exam.
The risk class you get assigned to by the life insurance company is part of how they determine how much coverage to offer you and at what rate.
Below are brief descriptions of some of those risk classes.
Risk classes for non-smokers applying for life insurance
• Preferred best: in excellent health, no family history of health issues and you do not participate in activities or occupations that are considered high-risk.
• Preferred: in very good health with a few minor health issues.
• Standard: in good health with some issues that put you at a greater risk for dying, like being overweight or having a family history of health issues.
• Sub-standard: in poor health with one or more chronic illness or you regularly participate in dangerous or life-threating activities.
Risk classes for smokers applying for life insurance
• Preferred smoker: otherwise healthy except for the fact that you smoke the occasional cigar or other non-cigarette tobacco products.
• Standard smoker: in less than perfect health and regularly smokes or uses a tobacco product
How much you smoke will also impact your overall health, which is another factor in determining how a life insurance company classifies you and how much they charge you for coverage.
If you smoke a pack a day, you may also suffer from other health issues, like respiratory problems. This would place you in a less desirable risk class and make your premium higher than a smoker that is otherwise in good health.
Life Insurance Premiums for Smokers
In general, a smoker pays at least twice as much for same amount of life insurance coverage as a similar person who does not smoke.
Let’s compare an example of a smoker vs. non-smoker rate for term life insurance. A 45 year-old man, in good health, who does not smoke, may pay around $50 per month for a 20-year term life insurance policy with a $500,000 death benefit.
That same man, if he were a smoker, could pay as much as $250 per month for the same policy. Over the length of his 20-year policy, being a smoker would cost the man over $50,000 in additional life insurance premiums.
Whole life insurance policies are also more expensive for smokers. On average, most whole life insurance policies are about 20-30% more for smokers.
It doesn’t pay to be untruthful about smoking
Many life insurance companies require that you undergo a medical exam before selling you life insurance. The exam usually includes a test for nicotine, the part of the tobacco plant that can be found in your blood, saliva, or urine.
So, even if you try to hide it, the medical exam will probably reveal that you smoke.
Some life insurance companies will turn down your application if they discover that you misrepresented your smoking history. Providing untruthful information on a life insurance application is also considered insurance fraud, which is illegal.
If you lie about smoking, and the life insurance company finds out later that you died from tobacco-related causes, then the life insurance company can deny the claim. This means your beneficiary would not receive the death benefit.
Be honest and upfront about your smoking. And be aware that if you choose to smoke or regularly use a tobacco product, then you will probably have to pay more for life insurance.
Are life insurance plans without a medical exam better for smokers?
Some smokers choose to purchase their life insurance policy from a company that does not require a medical exam. It is important to realize that life insurance policies that don’t require medical exams can be just as expensive as those that do, and can sometimes be more expensive.
If you select a life insurance policy that doesn’t require a medical exam, you should still disclose your tobacco use. Otherwise, your life insurance company could deny the claim if you die from tobacco-related causes.
Otherwise, your life insurance company could deny the claim if you die from tobacco-related causes. Also, remember that lying on your application is considered insurance fraud.
People who smoke but are otherwise healthy can undergo a medical exam to prove their good health and may qualify for a preferred smoker’s rate.
If you don’t undergo a medical exam, the life insurance company may charge you the standard rate for smokers, which is usually higher.
Does smoking marijuana affect my life insurance rate?
Many states in the US have legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes, and some states have even legalized it for recreational use. Today, life insurance companies are dealing with more and more applicants who have used or currently use marijuana.
As with tobacco, it’s important to be honest about how often and how much you use marijuana. Also similar to tobacco use, how your marijuana use influences your life insurance coverage varies from one life insurance company to the next.
Some life insurance companies deny anyone who uses marijuana for non-medical reasons. They can do that because non-medical marijuana is still illegal and therefore considered a dangerous and risky habit.
If you are smoking marijuana for certain serious medical conditions, like cancer or glaucoma, these conditions, not the marijuana use, may cause the life insurance company to deny you coverage or charge you a much higher rate.
For people who are otherwise in good health but take medical marijuana for reasons like back pain or insomnia, a life insurance company may offer them coverage at the smoker’s rate, which can be two to four times more than the rate for someone who does not smoke.
Smokers should shop around for life insurance?
It pays to shop around because each life insurance company may charge smokers different rates. Some life insurance companies may take into account if you are a moderate smoker and charge you a lower premium than a heavy smoker.
Getting quotes from more than one life insurance company is especially important for people who use tobacco products other than cigarettes. Some companies do not classify people who occasionally use other tobacco products, like cigars or chewing tobacco, as smokers. So they may qualify for a non-smokers rate.
If you quit, resubmit
Notify your life insurance company if you quit. They may ask you to undergo a medical exam and take a blood, saliva, or urine test to determine if there is still nicotine in your body.
Most life insurance plans require that you stop smoking or tobacco use for at least one year before they will consider lowering your premium.
While there are many reasons to quit, like improving your overall health, paying less for life insurance is certainly an added bonus.
Tips for smokers who want life insurance
If you are someone who smokes or uses tobacco and wants to find affordable life insurance, there are certain things you can do to improve your chances of finding a life insurance policy that will give you the coverage you need at a price you can afford.
• Buy life insurance when you are younger and in good health.
• Get quotes from multiple life insurance companies.
• Choose the right life insurance company who offers the best plan for someone who smokes or uses tobacco as much (or as little) as you do.
• Negotiate to see if you can get a better rate for the coverage you want.
• Always be honest and upfront about your tobacco or marijuana use.