When someone applies for life insurance, there are three basic ways every single carrier will judge where to start rating a person.
Those three things are:
- gender, and
- use of tobacco
When you mark the third option on your application as a “Yes,” prices immediately become more expensive (though there ARE ways to save… keep reading!).
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 fact is… tobacco users pay more than non-tobacco users because of the long term health related risks they carry.
But there’s a little something you should know before you apply… let’s talk about it.
Everything You NEED to Know About Life Insurance For Smokers (Of ALL Types)
It’s actually still not completely cut and dry when it comes to someone using the many different types of tobaccos, and it is true 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 over time, guidelines are becoming more and more relaxed.
Let’s break down each one by the type of tobacco you use, go over the intricacies of how they may be viewed, as well as other ways to save money on life insurance as a smoker.
Which Kind Do YOU Use?
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 (and how long ago you stopped, usually up to 10 years).
Especially when there are other health risks on the table, like chronic obtrusive pulmonary disease (or COPD), how many years you smoked throughout your lifetime will be a significant factor in determining your final rating.
But wait, I really am a social smoker! Am I really going to be penalized?!
Well, okay… maybe there’s ONE little exception in this arena. However, it’s got a few stipulations:
- You admit it on the application.
- You smoke no more than 2 cigarettes per month.
- You show little to no sign of tobacco use on your blood test.
- You choose the right carrier (HINT: There’s literally only one.)
Why do I have to admit if I’ve only smoked a couple cigarettes in the last year? It’s been several months since I had one, anyway!
Here’s the deal with this scenario…
If you mark “No” on the application, even if you’ve only had 1 in the past year, you’re actually committing insurance fraud.
That’s kind of a big deal.
But also, you’d be taking advantage of the company who is actually trying to help you out.
See, if you are truly a social smoker, you’ll be eligible for up to Preferred Non-Tobacco rates; however, if you were otherwise eligible but didn’t disclose your use of cigarettes, you’d be eligible for Preferred Best Non-Tobacco, which is even cheaper.
Yes, while it seems you’re docking yourself a few pennies on the dollar in premiums, but you’re actually saving a LOT from the alternative, which is a Preferred Tobacco rate.
Here are a few quick sample rates comparing the two, just so you can see how much you’re already saving.
|Amount||Smoker Rate||Social Smoker Rate|
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*above rates are for a healthy male, aged 35.
Cigars / Cigarillos / Pipes
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.
In addition, you should know that many of the life insurance carriers consider the use of a pipe to be in the same category as cigar smokers, so you’ll find most of this information is relative to both.
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 approvals.
For example, several, if not most, carriers allow a handful of cigars per year to be used. Period.
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 of use, 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, or even unlimited.
Yep, you read that as clear as a day: unlimited use is allowed by one carrier. (Prudential, if you’re wondering.)
Again, it’s critical to disclose your use up front, but also pick the insurance companies who are best in class here.
Here are a few others we recommend:
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 cigars and pipes.
This is great news, meaning you can lock in Non-Smoker ratings if you follow the rules from above.
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 are very common here, so approval at non-smoker rates requires a minimum of at least a year or two by most companies.
Again, as long as you’ve not experienced any type of health risks, you can get Non-Smoker rates.
You can obtain even better, like Preferred or even Non-Smoker Plus, but 36 months may be in order to achieve those classifications by many carriers.
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!
Read that again.
You can be using an e-cigarette or vaping currently and still get those rates!
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.
Again, Prudential is going to be your best bet here if you:
- admit up front
- haven’t used any other type of tobacco in the last 12 months
There just isn’t enough information yet about the health effects (if any) of switching from cigarettes, cigars, pipes or even chew on over to e-cigarettes, so it’s one of those finicky categories where 90% of all life insurance companies just opt out of placing this risk.
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.
Here’s our full guide on life insurance for e-cigarette users and vapers as it stands today.
I don’t use tobacco. But uhm… maybe something a little different from time to time?
It would be negligent to not discuss how marijuana affects life insurance rates, as well.
What used to be significantly more taboo than it is today, tapping into a little Mary Jane actually isn’t nearly as much of a struggle with life insurance underwriters as many think.
Remember these key points, first:
- HIPAA Laws – Your privacy is guaranteed. You won’t need to worry about getting ratted out to someone.
- Frequency Matters – One joint generally won’t bump you, but if you use marijuana cigarettes or bongs on a daily basis, you’ll be settling with smoker rates, period.
- Health Counts – If you’re using marijuana as a medicinal cure or pain killer, you will be subjected to very strict underwriting based on your condition (not so much the weed). However, rec-use is generally accepted.
Although not tobacco, it does have some similar attributes, as far as the life insurance process goes, anyway.
If a person does not disclose use and a reason why to the carrier at application, they could be declined.
However, if disclosed with just limited use, a person could receive as high as the top possible 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 basis could get as good as Preferred Best Non-Smoker (the cheapest rate available), 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.
However, only a handful will give you those Non-Smoker rates you’re looking for.
(Can you tell why Prudential is listed as our best life insurance company for smokers?)
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)
There are several kinds of nicotine aids to help those who smoke to attempt to quit.
It could be a patch, a gum, a prescription medication, chewing tobacco even, and others.
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. Nicotine is an additive which sticks around a while.
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.
4 Big Tips To 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 (One-Year Term Policy)
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 (hey, that’s what we are!), preferably one who is specialized in either high risk underwriting or has extensive experience in handling different tobacco scenarios (hey, that’s us, too!).
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.
You deserve it.