When someone applies for life insurance, there are three basic ways every single carrier will judge where to start rating a person before even looking at their health, driver’s record or other influencing characteristics. Those three things are age, gender and use of tobacco.
Life insurance rates for tobacco users immediately become more expensive, though there are ways to save.
This is because, statistically, these are the most relevant factors to how long a person might be expected to live, which ultimately determines how risky an applicant is to the issuer they applied to. The older a person is, the less life they have remaining. Men will always pay more than women, all things being equal, if they are the same age and health. And finally, tobacco users pay more than non-tobacco users because of the long term health related risks they carry.
Life Insurance For Smokers Of All Types
That being said, it’s still not completely cut and dry when it comes to someone using the many different types of tobaccos, and it is true that a person could obtain non-smoker rates even if they use specific types on occasion. While every life insurance company treats tobacco slightly different, a few stand out from the crowd because of their extremely liberal underwriting. Partly due to recent studies and new information on how tobacco affects the human body overtime, guidelines are becoming more and more relaxed.
Let’s break down each one by type of tobacco, go over the intricacies of how they may be viewed, as well as other ways to save money on life insurance as a smoker.
The most commonly used form of tobacco today, cigarettes have the highest risk of any of the tobacco products on the market. Because of their highly addicting nature and harmful long term effects, no carriers will issue a cigarette user a non-smoker rating. You’re considered a smoker and life insurance ratings will reflect it.
Furthermore, many companies require you abstain from using cigarettes at least a full year before they’ll consider you a non-smoker, while others mandate you wait up to 2 years before applying for a non-smoker class.
Even if you are no longer a smoker, a company may ask if you’ve ever used cigarettes, and if so, for how many years. Especially when there are other health risks on the table, like chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (or COPD), how many years you did smoke throughout your lifetime could be a significant factor in determining your final rating.
Cigars / Cigarillos
Cigars and cigarillos are among one of the more grey areas when it comes to the differences between getting approved as a non-smoker versus a smoker. The carriers you choose from are critical here, as many different ones allow cigar use to a degree, but there are specific rules and protocol to follow to get non-smoker.
For example, several carriers allow a handful of cigars per year to be used, and they’ll issue you non-tobacco rates, but you have to not only tell them about your use when you apply, but you’ll need to show limited to no substance in your blood when your medical is done. If you smoke a cigar on the golf course on Sunday and take your medical on Monday, there’s a good chance your blood work will show abnormally high amounts even if it was the only one of the year.
There are other carriers, who are much more liberal, allowing as much as a cigar every week. Again, it’s critical to disclose your use up front.
Chewing Tobacco / Dip / Snuff / Smokeless Tobacco
For anyone who has dipped, chewed or otherwise used any sort of smokeless tobacco, most of the same rules apply as with cigarettes. Because there is a prolonged exposure while using, especially with constant contact in the lips, gums, and saliva, there are still high risk factors even without smoke inhalation.
Tongue, mouth and throat cancer is very common here, so approval at non-smoker rates requires a minimum of at least a year or two by most companies. You can obtain even better, like preferred or non-smoker plus, but 36 months may be common in order to do so.
E-Cig / Vaping / Hookah
One of the most odd underwriting categories for tobacco users regarding life insurance is that of buying life insurance while vaping or using an e-cig. So long as you aren’t currently using any other type of tobacco and you haven’t for one year, you could be approved as high as non-smoker plus while you’re using a e-cig or vaping currently!
There is only one carrier who is currently acknowledge vapers as such, and it’s very recent they’ve modified their guildelines, but because e-cigarettes are a newer item to hit the market, not nearly enough research has been issued over long period studies. As more in-depth information comes to surface on the long term advantages and disadvantages to using these two, as well as a hookah, guidelines are likely to change in one direction or another.
It would be negligent to not discuss how marijuana affects life insurance rates, as well. Although not tobacco, it does have similar attributes. If a person does not disclose use and a reason why to the carrier at application, they could be declined. However, if disclosed and limited use, a person could receive as high at top rates.
Marijuana and life insurance underwriting co-exist in a mildly different genre because of the reason for using it in the first place. Recreational use and medicinal use will be seen as different. For example, a person who uses marijuana recreationally on an intermittent bases could get as good as preferred best, yet a person with an illness who uses it the same frequency will be subject to additional rules for the health issue of concern. For medicinal marijuana users, the marijuana use is not as much of a concern as is the underlying health issue which spurs their use.
About a dozen carriers allow use of some sort, where frequency and reason for use will vary ratings from preferred best down to sub-standard smoker rates.
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
There are several kinds of nicotine aids to help those who smoke to quit. It could be a patch, a gum, a prescription medication (you may have heard of Chantix or Zyban), and more. As mentioned above, just because you don’t physically smoke doesn’t mean you can’t still be considered a smoker to the carrier you apply to.
But, unlike others types, NRT’s may actually help in the carrier cutting you a break. You’ll want to ask us about getting a specific kind of quote if you’re using a nicotine replacement therapy of any kind, and we can customize your quote accordingly.
Tips For Saving On Smoker Insurance Premiums
There are a few ways you can help yourself better your rating and lower your premium when considering tobacco use either currently or in your past.
1. Consider an ART
If you haven’t yet quit, or you did within the last year, don’t apply for a 20- or 30-year term until you can secure non-smoker rates. You could apply and ask for a reconsideration, but you’ll pay substantially higher rates in the first year.
Instead, buy an annual renewable term (ART), also called a yearly renewable term (or YRT). Even though you’ll be given a smoker rate, your premiums will be very minimal because the coverage duration is only one year in length. Just be sure you are quitting for good, otherwise you’ll be stuck looking for coverage in a year, and you’ll pay even more because you’ve attained another birth year.
2. Choose wisely
The company you pick could have everything to do with how much your monthly premiums will be. Taking your time and being extra selective will yield you better rates more often than not. Use an independent agent, preferably one who is specialized in either high risk underwriting or has extensive experience in handling different tobacco scenarios.
3. Be honest and forthcoming
Do not try to get tricky and not disclose your use. First of all, it could result in non-payment if you’re found of making fraudulent claims. Second, Once you’re declared a smoker by one company, it will be visible by others, so you’ll be stuck with a smoker’s rating for at least another year despite changing who you apply to. Last, you need to disclose to the carrier the type, the frequency and the duration of use to get the best rates.
4. Answer honestly but frugally
Each company words their questions differently. While one carrier might ask if you’ve used tobacco in the last year, another may ask if you’ve used tobacco without regard to time frame. If the company you use has a specific time table which their asking about and you can honestly answer “No” to their question without disclosing additional information, just answer “No” and nothing more.
Getting the most affordable life insurance as a smoker takes a little bit of homework, but it will be very worth your time. Smokers pay anywhere from 50-500% more when compared to those who don’t smoke, depending on age, company and product choice. Make a smart decision, and get better results.