If you smoke, you’re certainly aware of the negative effects tobacco has on your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is the greatest cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States. Each year, smoking causes 480,000 fatalities (or 1 in every 5 deaths).
Another unfavorable consequence of smoking is dramatically higher life insurance premiums. When compared to someone who does not smoke, smokers can pay roughly four times more for life insurance.
Why do smokers pay different rates for life insurance?
The basis for life insurance premiums is life expectancy. When you get a life insurance quote, things that affect your “mortality,” or life insurance expectancy, are taken into account.
According to a 2020 report from the Surgeon General, adult cigarette smoking is at an all-time low of 14%. However, smoking-related diseases affect 16 million Americans. And you don’t have to be sick to be stuck with higher life insurance premiums. When shopping for life insurance, simply being a smoker will almost always result in higher rates.
What is considered “Smoking”?
So, what exactly constitutes smoking? The obvious candidate is cigarettes.
- E-cigarettes and vaping
- Bidis (thin hand-rolled cigarettes)
- Tobacco chewing
- Tobacco that dissolves
- Nicotine substitution therapy (patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nose sprays)
- Tobacco products heated
- Depending on how often they use it, people who use marijuana are sometimes called smokers.
Regular cigar smokers are usually classified as such. However, if you smoke cigars occasionally, such as once or twice a month, many life insurers will give you a non-smoking premium.
If you haven’t smoked in 12 months, you are considered a nonsmoker, although you can still smoke a pipe, cigar, or chew tobacco.
Life Insurance Rates for Smokers vs. Non-Smokers
If you’re a smoker, expect to pay a lot for life insurance. We discovered that smoking rates are easily double or triple those of non-smokers. The amount of the increase will depend on your age, gender, and the amount of coverage you want, but here are some examples of average quote increases for a $500,000 term life insurance policy with 20 years left to go.
How Do Life Insurance Companies Discover If You Smoke?
It’s critical, to be honest with all of your answers while filling out a life insurance application. There are many ways for life insurance companies to check the information you put on your application.
A life insurance medical exam, which often includes taking blood and urine samples, is one of the most common methods of verification. These tests will indicate the presence of cotinine, a nicotine byproduct, in your system.
Cotinine can be found in saliva and hair samples as well. However, cotinine testing isn’t foolproof. Smokers who haven’t smoked in a day or two may be able to go through.
According to ExamOne, which provides medical tests for life insurance firms, about 23% of applicants who use tobacco do not reveal it on their applications. This is based on the number of people who tested positive for cotinine in their urine but said they didn’t smoke.
ExamOne says that people between the ages of 18 and 29 are the most likely to lie about smoking (25.8%).
Life insurance firms are keen on weeding out smokers who aren’t telling the truth about their habits. Verisk, a company that analyses data, says that life insurers lose about $3.4 billion in premiums every year because people don’t tell them they smoke.
A firm could find out if you smoke or use another sort of nicotine in a variety of ways, including:
Medical records Many life insurance applications include a request for your medical records. Nicotine use will almost certainly be documented.
Databases for pharmaceuticals Life insurance companies frequently want a list of your past and current medicines. Nicotine use, such as a prescription for a smoking-cessation medicine, could show up here.
Past applications for life and health insurance MIB is a corporation that keeps track of your previous responses to various life and health applications. If your previous answers differ, they will be noted here.
The internet. Insurance firms are actively looking for evidence of factors that affect rates on social media platforms like Facebook.
Your voice has a distinctive tone. Verisk supplies life insurance firms with analytics that can tell if you smoke based on the sound of your voice and other factors like demographic and socioeconomic data. You may be recorded if you answer life insurance application questions over the phone (a process known as a tele-interview). Verisk can examine these recordings and identify those who are likely to be smokers.
How to Avoid a Medical Exam for Life Insurance?
A medical exam is not required for all life insurance policies. Some policies, such as guaranteed issue life insurance, do not require an exam or ask about your health. Rates are determined by your age, gender, and amount of coverage.
These policies are among the most expensive you can buy because the life insurer has no health information about you. They also tend to provide fairly limited coverage, ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. You might still save money by purchasing a regular life insurance policy and agreeing to take the medical exam and pay smokers’ rates.
How long must you not smoke before you can get life insurance as a non-smoker?
You’re called a “non-smoker” if you haven’t smoked in at least 12 months. Insurance companies have different non-smoking time limits.
What Happens If I Begin Smoking After Purchasing Life Insurance?
A life insurance provider can not raise your premiums after you purchase a policy. So even if you start deep-sea diving or smoking later, you’ll be able to keep your life insurance premiums. The same is true for health issues that arise after you purchase insurance.
Life insurers aren’t concerned that you’ll start smoking later in life. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 90% of cigarette users start smoking before the age of 18.
How to Find the Best Smoking Life Insurance Rates?
Shopping around is the key to finding the best life insurance premiums, whether you use nicotine or not. You can get a sense of what a good price is by getting at least a few life insurance quotes.
An independent life insurance agent can help you compare prices from companies that are friendly to people who smoke.
What if I decide to stop smoking later?
If you bought life insurance while smoking and have been smoke-free for at least a year, you might be eligible to get a better deal. You might inquire with your life insurance company about how long you must remain smoke-free to be declared a non-smoker.
You can ask for the rate to be reassessed if you’ve passed the time limit. This implies you’ll have to take a new life insurance medical test and have your health assessed again. In the meantime, if you’ve developed new medical issues, those will be factored into the new cost as well. So keep in mind that receiving a re-rating after quitting smoking isn’t always a sure thing.