Life Insurance For Smokers.

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Last updated: March 14, 2016 at 22:48 pm

smoking and life insurance coverage

Approximately one in every four Americans smoke or use some form of tobacco at least occasionally, which means that insurers would be missing out on a huge market segment were they to simply refuse to cover smokers. For this reason, most life insurance companies will offer life insurance for smokers, though due to the added risk, policy holders will have to pay a higher premium.

Why Does Smokers’ Life Insurance Cost More?

Since the 70’s, it has been general knowledge that smoking poses serious health hazards, and insurance companies wasted no time factoring this into their risk-assessment tables for smokers.

According to the CDC, smokers live an average of 10 years less than non-smokers, and nearly half a million Americans die every year from smoking-related conditions.

The most common such conditions are:

  • Cancer affecting the lungs and the whole respiratory tract, including mouth cancer
  • Chronic breathing disorders like bronchitis and emphysema
  • Stomach and liver cancers
  • Coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
coffee shop

However, smoking alone will not determine what risk category insurers put you in. If you are in your 30s or under and/or in relatively good health, you may qualify for cheaper insurance than a non-smoker who engages in risky recreational activities like sky diving or scuba diving.

You may find insurance rates under those for people with a serious preexisting condition or with a high-risk occupation like boxing or fire fighting.

How can I compare the best rates for smokers?  Call 

Risk Classes

For most insurance, there are four main risk classes—Preferred Plus, Preferred, Standard Plus, and Standard. Smokers usually are broken down into only two classes, however: Preferred Smoker and Standard Smoker. The former is less risky and applies to those who very occasionally use tobacco products other than cigarettes. The latter is for cigarettes and regular tobacco use.

Premiums for smokers’ term life insurance are normally two to four times higher than for non-smokers taking out the same policy. This may be the difference between paying $50 and $250 per month and, over a 20-year term, may add up to an extra $50,000 in premiums. Whole life rates, on the other hand, are only about 20% to 30% lower for non-smokers.

Who Counts as a “Smoker” for Insurance Purposes?

Most often, any use whatsoever of tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum, nicotine patches, and e-cigarrettes(vaping) will put you into the “smoker category”.  Some insurers give lower rates for non-cigarette tobacco users but some don’t.

Some take into account the quantity of tobacco typically consumed but others don’t. Most consider you a “smoker” if you have used tobacco products within the last 12 months, but some insurance companies make that two to three years. Still others have a policy of gradually lowering premiums the longer you have been tobacco-free.

Users of marijuana will also usually be charged the smoker’s life insurance rates or a similar rate. The reason is that marijuana is still illegal in most parts of the U.S. When legal medical marijuana is used, the rationale for a rate increase is based on the risks of a serious condition like glaucoma that is being treated with the medical marijuana. If used to treat a less severe problem like back pain, rates increase due to the potential side effects of smoking marijuana.

Finally, insurance companies will almost always require a health exam, which will include blood and urine tests. If cotinine, a byproduct of nicotine, is found in your system in sufficient quantities, you will be considered a smoker by the insurer.  Medical records may also contribute to confirming applicants as smoker/non-smoker.

What Happens to Those Who Commit Insurance Fraud?

The temptations exist to give incomplete or incorrect information on insurance policies concerning one’s smoking habits in order to obtain a lower premium. This is never a wise choice. Insurance fraud by smokers is not only illegal and unethical, but it is also likely to be discovered.

Insurers will sometimes do “spot checks,” but the greater danger lies in claims being denied just as your loved one goes to collect on the policy. The insurer will examine your medical records up to seven years back, call your doctor personally, and quickly find out about coroner’s reports stating you died from smoking-related causes. They will almost certainly find out.

When fraud was used to obtain the policy, the insurance company can deny all claims and, at most, refund your family the premiums you paid in. That destroys the whole point of having insurance to begin with.

A second possibility is that the insurer will compare the amount paid as a non-smoker with what should have been paid as a smoker and pay out on that basis. For example, if you paid only 50% of what you would have, your family would only get 50% of the claim you thought they would get.

How Can I Minimize My Smokers Insurance Premium?

Many smokers understand that, since they are in a higher risk category, they may have to pay more for life insurance. Nonetheless, they wonder, “Is there a way to minimize my premiums while still receiving sufficient value?” The answer is that there are many ways to do this, including the following 6 ways:

  • The best way is to simply quit smoking. After one year, in most cases, you can then inform your insurer and get the premium lowered. Or, if dealing with the right company, even scaling back your smoking habits or switching to a non-cigarette form of nicotine may help you get a better price.
  • Find a company that specializes in life insurance policies for smokers. These carriers more likely take into account if you only smoke a cigar on holidays or if you smoke cigarettes, but only infrequently. Instead of just looking at smokers tables of general averages, such insurers think out the details of your situation and give you a quote that conforms to your actual health status.
  • Use a high risk online life insurance comparison broker with access to detailed information on multiple insurers’ quotations. This makes it easy to find which insurance company has the best value on the dollar for someone who smokes and in your particular circumstance.
  • Try negotiating for a lower rate. Sometimes, a life insurance company will reconsider the first-quoted rate if you can submit a reasonable argument as to why you should pay less. There may be relevant circumstances not asked on the application form that are in your favor—be bold and bring them up (courteously).
  • Take care to not buy too much or too little coverage. Be very careful about deciding on how big of a policy to take out. Over-insuring is throwing away money, but under-insuring is exposing your family to unnecessary risk. Talk to an expert as well as doing your own homework. Sometimes premiums are too high because of over-purchasing.
  • Ask for more precise bulk buying increments. Some insurers are willing to work with you on bulk purchase discounts if you are going to buy extra. Instead of a rate drop every $100,000 of more cover purchased, for example, you may be able to have it calculated for every additional $10,000.

You Can Still Get Competitive Rates if you smoke

While life insurance for a smoker may tend to cost more than for the average non-smoker, it is not impossible to get approved nor to find affordable premiums.  Being a wise shopper will pay off in lower rates.

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