Smoking is NOT a disability.
It’s a freedom, a choice, and a lifestyle of sorts for many people around the country.
Applying for life insurance for smokers does not have to be such a painful and mind-numbing process.
So why is it that many life insurance companies seem to treat smokers like they have the plague?
Fortunately for you, it’s nothing personal. It all comes down to the well-documented health risks that are associated with smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is directly related to 1 in 5 deaths.
On average, a smoker’s lifespan is 10 years shorter compared to a person who does not smoke. Not to mention that smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease, cancer (lung, oral cavity, esophagus), and respiratory conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and emphysema.
Don’t worry, this article is NOT a thinly veiled attempt to persuade you to quit smoking. You are an adult after all and already aware of the risks smoking entails.
What’s important to keep in mind is that life insurance companies, like most businesses, exist to make money. Naturally, they want to ensure people who are likely to live longer and pay their full premiums.
Remembering this as you go through the life insurance research and buying process can help minimize the personal sting you may feel at times.
In this article, we will be discussing:
- How life insurance companies define a smoker
- The different smoker classifications used
- Common questions smokers are asked
- Type of premiums you can expect to pay
- How to pay non-smoker rates if you smoke very rarely
- Sample rates and savings for cigarette smokers
Arming yourself with this valuable information will help you find the most affordable policy for you and your family that best suits your needs.
Most of all, you’ll be able to rest easy knowing that your family’s financial future will always be secure.
What is a “Smoker?”
The definition of a smoker will vary between companies.
Some companies only classify individuals who smoke cigarettes or cigars as smokers, while others will consider people who use nicotine supplements (gum, patches, etc.) and even electronic cigarettes as smokers. Those who primarily chew tobacco will have a different set of things to consider when seeking life insurance.
Smoking marijuana or any cannabis-infused edibles will need to be considered separately.
In addition to the type of tobacco product, duration, and frequency of use also factor into the equation when getting a life insurance quote.
Most companies will assess your use over the previous 12 months. If you have used a tobacco product within the past 12 months, many companies will put you in the “smoker” category. Some stricter companies will even go back as far as 5 years, but this is not as common.
In general, life insurance companies will classify smokers into one of two categories:
1. Standard Tobacco: someone in less than perfect health who smokes cigarettes or uses tobacco on a regular basis.
2. Preferred Tobacco: someone who is in good health aside from occasional cigar smoking or other tobacco product use.
If you use multiple tobacco products, start with our guide to tobacco life insurance.
What Will They Ask Me?
Below you will find some of the most commonly asked questions when applying for life insurance for smokers:
1. Have you smoked a cigarette or used another tobacco product within the past 12 months?
2. What tobacco products have you used?
3. How often do you use these products?
4. Does smoking make you feel like a hot, buttery stack of delicious flapjacks?
Ok, I’m just kidding about that last one…but I had to make sure you were still awake!
Hopefully, that made you chuckle a little bit 🙂 Look, we understand that shopping around for life insurance as a smoker can be tedious and even a little intimidating.
Our goal is to help simplify this process for you as much as possible, and if you stick with us until the end, we are certain you will feel much more comfortable in finding a great policy to protect you and your family.
All right, time to get back to business!
We were just talking about some questions you will be asked when filling out a life insurance application.
On top of the questions listed above, you will also be asked about your personal health history, your family health history, and your annual income.
All of the questions involved here are pretty straight forward….so unless you have your head buried in the sand you should have no trouble providing answers.
In terms of your personal and family health history, you can expect to be asked about heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. These are some of the major medical conditions that most life insurance companies focus on the most.
Should You Look for a Policy that Does NOT Require a Medical Exam?
Nowadays, most life insurance companies will require smokers to get a medical exam before approving a policy. However, there are companies out there who do not require a medical exam for smokers.
At face value, it may seem like getting life insurance for smokers from a company that does not require a medical exam would be the way to go.
I mean without a medical exam, the premiums they charge would have to be lower right?
The answer is not necessarily. In fact, many policies may be just as expensive, or even more expensive than policies that do require a medical exam.
Consider this: if you are in good health aside from smoking or using tobacco, it may be in your best interest to get a medical exam. This exam will serve as proof of your good health, leading some companies to classify you as a “preferred smoker”.
This can result in a cheaper premium and more moolah in your pocket !
Just think about how many more packs of cigarettes you could buy with this extra money?
TOTALLY kidding….Hopefully, you’ll use that money to buy some nicotine gum or patches instead 😉
OK, OK, no “quit smoking” pitches here as promised.
Life Insurance Premiums for Smokers….Prepare for Impact
I’m not here to scare you, but I don’t want to blow sunshine up your wazoo either.
Generally speaking, REGULAR smokers can expect to pay higher premiums than similar persons who do not smoke.
The question is….how much more?
Unfortunately, there is not one definitive answer here. In more extreme cases, premiums for smokers may be 3-4 times higher than premiums for non-smokers. Again, this would represent more of a “worst case” scenario.
The absolute best you will find is 2-3 times higher, that’s just the reality.
Insider’s secret: If you regularly smoke cigarettes, the way to the lowest rates is to focus on everything BESIDES smoking. Other health factors, family history, lifestyle, and occupation, etc. These things play a part in your rate class. As a regular smoker, your are going to be in the Tobacco rate classes, no way around that.
The goal is to get Preferred Tobacco instead of Standard Tobacco. This will save you 25% to 40% in premiums. Don’t just settle for regular smoker rates. If you need assistance finding the right company for your unique situation, we would be happy to help. Simply fill out a quote request or contact us.
Very Occasional Smokers – How to Pay Non-Smoker Rates
If you only smoke a very occasional cigarette, we do work with a company that will allow you to qualify for the absolute highest non-smoker rates. This will save you a TON of $$.
- Less than 12 cigarettes per year AND can test negative for the nicotine (cotinine) marker in your urine specimen. You will be considered as if you don’t smoke at all. This means the highest level, Preferred Plus, is on the table. Your rate class will be determined off all the other normal factors but you won’t be dinged for the cigarettes.
- Smoking 12-24 cigarettes per year AND the negative nicotine urine test. You can still achieve the Preferred rate class, just 1 level below the top.
The savings vs paying tobacco rates with this carrier add up quickly!!
Sample Rates and Savings for Cigarette Smokers
Let’s take a closer look at the savings between the Preferred Tobacco and Standard Tobacco for a sample case.
Christina is a 38-year-old female who:
- Smokes 1-2 packs of cigarettes per week.
- Her father died from cancer at age 58.
- Has a DUI conviction from 3 years ago.
- Otherwise in very good health.
Christina had heard that ING does not care about the family history of cancer and was planning to apply there. While she is correct that they won’t ask about her father’s cancer, they will ding her for the DUI. The best she can do with ING is the Standard Tobacco rate class.
Working with Simple Life Insure, we were able to direct her to Prudential. Prudential will ask about the family history of cancer but gives an exception for up to one death in the family before age 60. Therefore, it’s a non-issue. They will still consider her for Preferred Tobacco rate class since the DUI was 3+ years go.
Below rates assume 20-year level term policy.
|Standard non-tobacco||$36.44 per month||$66.85 per month||$96.36 per month|
|Standard tobacco||$100.84 per month||$194.79 per month||$290.90 per month|
By going with the right company, Christina can save 17% to 19% on her premiums. Over the 20 year term, she saves $1,444 to $7,274 depending on the coverage amount chosen.
Above rates and underwriting guidelines subject to change at any time. Consult an independent broker for most current information.
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 personal situation. Shopping around will result in you getting the best life insurance coverage for your needs at an 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.
The truth is, while the quote engine is a great place to start, if you are applying for life insurance as a smoker, it’s important that you work with a partner who understands the complicated guidelines and will fight on your behalf to get the lowest rate for your situation.
We are one of the rare independent brokers that only sells life insurance so we stay on top of all this daily.
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)