One question we see often is the following:
“Does life insurance for chewing tobacco users cost the same as policies for smokers?”
The Answer: It varies (I know, probably not what you wanted to hear).
Before we dive into more detail, we need to understand where the insurance company is coming from. They are the ones assigning rates and approving/denying applications. In order for a chewing tobacco user to put the best foot forward, we first need to know what we are up against.
Let’s be clear: This is NOT a health sermon. We do need to take a look at some of the risks associated with smokeless tobacco and how it stacks up against cigarettes.
- Smokeless tobacco actually contains more nicotine than cigarettes. I’m serious….I was shocked when I first found out about this too!
- Holding an average-size wad of chew in your mouth for just 30 minutes will give you as much nicotine as is contained in 3 cigarettes.
- Chewing tobacco greatly increases your risk of developing mouth or throat cancer. This risk may be up to 50% higher in people who use smokeless tobacco compared to those who don’t.
- Regular chewing can cause severe gum disease, and really “muck up” your teeth.
If you feel like you need more detail, the CDC has an informative article.
Now that I’ve probably bummed you out, let’s continue talking about how life insurance companies view tobacco chewers compared to smokers.
Smokeless Tobacco Vs. Cigarettes, Which is Better for Getting Life Insurance?
Due to the increased addictive potential and significant health risks associated with smokeless tobacco, many companies will lump tobacco chewers in the same category as cigarette smokers and cigar smokers.
However, there are a few companies (like Prudential) who are more lax, and will not charge the same premiums as they do for smokers.
It’s important to note that this is highly dependent on how much and how often you chew.
If you are an occasional snuffer, and only go through 2 or 3 cans of dip in a year, chances are in your favor that some companies may not classify you as a smoker.
On the other hand, if you are ripping through 5 cans every week, you’ll likely be categorized as a smoker just about everywhere.
Another important factor to consider is your medical exam. Just like with smokers, approval of life insurance for tobacco chewers will usually be contingent upon an applicant’s medical exam. You can go the non-medical exam route, but this will usually result in lower coverage amounts and almost always bring much higher premiums. The insurance companies are taking on more risk not knowing your full situation and guess who is going to pay for that increase in risk?
The exam will include blood or urine tests to detect the presence of nicotine in your system.
Getting this exam can actually work in your favor if you’re only an occasional chewer.
If you are in otherwise good health and test negative for nicotine, some companies may give you a premium that is only slightly more expensive than a similar person who does not smoke or use tobacco products.
Underwriting guidelines do change often so be sure to consult with a trusted independent life insurance professional who keeps up on this stuff.
How to Cheat Your Nicotine Test During Your Medical Exam
I hope you didn’t think I was being serious! We are a completely white hat and ethical bunch here.
So….that is certainly NOT something we are going to talk about or recommend….that would be bad, got it?
With that said, it doesn’t hurt to have a basic understanding of how long nicotine can be detected in your body. In general, nicotine can be detected for 1 to 3 days in your blood after consuming a tobacco product.
Also, worth mentioning is cotinine. This is the primary metabolite nicotine is converted to once inside our bodies. Cotinine can be detected up to 10 days after consuming a tobacco product.
What’s important to understand here, is that these time frames are highly variable. If you are a chronic, heavy tobacco user, chances are nicotine and cotinine may be detected in your system for a longer period of time.
There are also many other factors that may affect how long nicotine is detected in your body, such as age, race, rate of metabolism and more.
This knowledge can definitely work to your benefit if you are a lighter, occasional tobacco user.
If you can refrain from consuming tobacco for a couple weeks prior to your medical exam without experiencing withdrawal, chances are good that you may test negative for nicotine.
As mentioned earlier, testing negative for nicotine can only bode well for you, even if you have used tobacco within the previous 12 months.
At the moment, Prudential will allow a positive test for nicotine on the exam and still give you non-tobacco rates. In fact, if you are in good health otherwise and don’t have other risk factors, you can get as high as the Standard Plus health class. This is huge and will save you a BUNCH of $$. Things can change fast but at the moment, we are placing most of our tobacco chewing clients at Prudential. Let’s talk about if it’s the right fit for you.
Is Honesty Really the Best Policy?
Hopefully, you didn’t just experience a weird childhood flashback to your mother chanting this mantra! If so, please accept my apologies. All jokes aside, this is certainly applicable to life insurance and something worth mentioning.
Allow me to play devil’s advocate for a moment. Let’s say you seldom chew tobacco….no more than 2 or 3 times a year.
You are filling out an application for life insurance for tobacco chewers, and it asks if you have consumed any tobacco products within the past 12 months. You have, but your last wad of chew was over 6 months ago. Do you really need to report this in your application?
I mean, even if they do require a medical exam, it’s not like you are going to test positive for nicotine….it has been over 6 months! If you do report any usage within the past 12 months, you know your premium will be higher. Would it be ok to leave this out of your application?
A resounding NOOOO! Why? Two words: insurance fraud
Not reporting your consumption would constitute insurance fraud. This is illegal, so do not do it, plain and simple (even though it may be tempting…).
Keep in mind, most life insurance companies have what’s called a two-year contestability period, and can cancel your policy if they discover you falsified information on your application.
How Does a Tobacco Chewer Get the Best Life Insurance Premium Possible?
First off, do everything you can to get non-tobacco rates. As we have discussed already, this may or may not be possible depending on your usage and medical exam results but if at all possible, that is priority #1.
Working with an experienced independent agent who knows the landscape out there on this kind of stuff will benefit you greatly. Please don’t just start firing off applications to 12 different carriers in hopes that one will give you non-tobacco status.
Just how important is to get non-tobacco status?
Well, how much do you like to save lots of money? Let’s take a look a quick comparison:
Dan is a 41-year-old in good health but he likes to dip. Below rates assume 20-year level term coverage.
|Standard non-tobacco||$36.44 per month||$66.85 per month||$96.36 per month
|$100.84 per month||$194.79 per month||$290.90 per month
in Dan’s case, he will be paying 3 times higher! If that doesn’t mean anything to you how about the $15,456 to $46,690 over the course of the 20-year term? What could you do with an extra 47 thousand dollars?
Always remember that premiums can vary widely between companies.
That’s why it’s SO important that you understand how the different carriers might view your unique personal situation. Shopping around will result in you getting the best life insurance coverage for your needs the most affordable premium.
Please keep in mind that underwriting guidelines can and DO vary greatly between carriers and this is often a complicated maze for consumers to navigate.
The secret to getting the lowest rate is placing you in a policy with the company who views you in the most favorable light.
Our quote engine is great for getting an idea of costs but if you are applying for life insurance as someone who chews tobacco or uses other forms of tobacco products, it’s critical that you work with a broker who understands the complicated guidelines and will fight on your behalf to get the lowest rate.
We are one of the rare independent brokers that only sells life insurance so we’ve gotten pretty darn good at it.
If you are ready to get started, please fill out a quote request or always feel free to contact us with any questions.
We are here to help and will never pressure you in any way (and it’s FREE).