Warning This is Not a Safe Zone—this post about smoking and life insurance is an honest, direct, and potentially politically incorrect.
You’ve heard the warnings, and you’ve still decided to partake in that daily pack of cigarettes. While you probably know all about the dangers of smoking and nicotine use, it may not have crossed your mind how this habit can affect your end of life plans—specifically, smoking and life insurance. While buying life insurance has been rumored to be a complicated process, it helps to know what you’re dealing with when purchasing a policy, especially if you’re unable to quickly kick the habit.
Why do you pay more for life insurance when you smoke?
Life insurance companies take a risk when they write a policy for you, and the healthier you are, the better rate you can expect to pay. Smoking, however, is looked at as a major risk factor that can cause your policy prices to skyrocket. It’s such a big deal to insurers that many of the simple application forms ask for your name, age, and whether you use tobacco or not—and not much else.
The Risks of Cigarettes and Nicotine Use (and what your life insurance underwriter thinks)
So, how bad exactly is smoking? In addition to the well-knowns (such as the inability to book the cleaner hotel rooms and that smoky smell that can linger on everything you own), there are some pretty hard-hitting health facts that accompany the addiction. In short, smokers and those who use nicotine regularly don’t tend to live as long, and the number of deaths reported by the CDC for those who use tobacco outnumber those caused by HIV, drug use, alcoholism, motor vehicle injuries, and shootings combined!
- The list of things you are at increased risk for are many, but the most dramatic include:
Cancer, not limited to your lungs or mouth
- Stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular disorders
- Low sperm motility
- Complications of pregnancy and low birth-weight infant issues
If all of this isn’t enough to convince you, there is hope. Quitting smoking has its almost immediate benefits. Once you stop, your body starts to repair itself, with many ex-smokers showing healthy body function in as little as 2-5 years and an astounding decrease in all those pesky risk factors mentioned before. If you quit smoking, life insurance prices will also get lower, too – which is great news for your pocketbook!
Smoking and Life Insurance
Just how do policy writers know that you’re a smoker or not? We would hope you would be honest when filling out your application forms, as any tobacco use within 12 months is usually expected to be reported. It’s not uncommon to be subject to a smoking life insurance blood test, however; results are usually given directly to the companies who process applications, ensuring that they have all the information needed to issue the appropriate policy.
What if you aren’t a heavy smoker? Many people have questions regarding tobacco and life insurance. It can be understandably confusing, since usage varies from person to person. Does it count if you are only a social smoker? Will taking a dip of chew disqualify you for the good rates? While underwriting policies differ from company to company, the general consensus is that all tobacco and nicotine products carry risks, and those risks translate directly into higher premiums for your life insurance plan.
Here are other examples:
- e-cigarette users or those who “vape” can expect to pay more for many life insurance policies.
The blood tests used by life insurers detect levels of nicotine, and do not discriminate between delivery methods. While this could change in the years ahead, expect the nicotine life insurance blood test to count you out for non-smoking rates.
The social smoker who has just one or two cigarettes (or even cigars and cigarillos) a week would still usually only qualify for the smoking life insurance rate; any tobacco use in the last year would need to be reported on the application forms.
Smokeless chewing tobacco users may find difficulty finding a good rate for life insurance due to the nicotine in their products, and the fact that chewing has been linked to all kinds of mouth and tongue cancers. While they may qualify for a rate better than smokers, it generally won’t be at the highest level or “preferred” premium level.
The legalization of marijuana has caused a unique wrinkle in the quest for life insurance. While not technically nicotine, smoking weed can still cause headaches for life insurance applicants, largely because most of the health screenings insurers use include markers for common drug chemicals. The THC in marijuana would be a red flag for your insurer, as most have a policy against illegal drug use. Your state of residence, even if pot-friendly, is not likely to keep you from higher life insurance premiums.
In short, the best way to stay away from the smoker stigma is to cut nicotine, tobacco, and other recreational drug products from your lifestyle completely. But what if you can’t?
How to Find the Perfect Nicotine Use Life Insurance Policy
Despite the fact that you likely won’t get as good a life insurance rate as a non-smoker, there are options available for people who use any type of tobacco or nicotine product. Several life insurance companies handle smoking policies, and as e-cigarettes and vaping become more popular, their underwriting sets guidelines for these customers, as well.
You probably know that life insurance is a very good idea, so you’re better off to apply now — even if you’re not the perfect applicant. How do you start? First, make a note of the last time you smoked a cigarette or used a tobacco or nicotine product. If it’s been almost a year, congrats! You are very close to qualifying for a premium policy and should start researching those right away. If you have used more recently, or have no intention of giving up your smokes, it’s a good idea to evaluate your expectations of how much you’ll pay for a life insurance policy.
Next, start by getting information or a quick quote from smoker-friendly policy issuers. Filling out the form today will prepare you for the kind of pricing you can expect and direct you to companies that are accustomed to working with nicotine users. Most life insurance companies can walk tobacco-users through the different rates available, make the smoking life insurance test quick and easy, and help you set up payment options that match your bill-paying lifestyle.
Finally, keep on top of your life insurance needs, and be sure to check out new options every few years to see how the market may have changed. This most definitely means coming back and reapplying if you make the 12-month milestone of no smoking, but also remembering that your needs for any type of coverage may change. Most quotes take just 60 seconds… less than the time it takes to smoke that cigarette!