When shopping around for life insurance, it helps to compare policies and rates across many different companies. However, if you are a smoker, no matter where you shop, your premiums will always be much higher than a nonsmoker.
But, what if you have quit recently? Can you qualify for non-smoking rates? The short answer is yes, maybe. However, because there are multiple variables to consider, the results are not always so cut and dry.
Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here is what you need to know about the cost of life insurance after you have quit smoking.
Smoking and Life Insurance: A Primer
Because smoking is such an unhealthy habit, you may assume that it would preclude you from getting life insurance coverage. However, almost all major life insurance companies will cover smokers – they just have to pay a lot more than nonsmokers.
The reason for this change is pretty apparent – since smoking can take years off of your life, you are at a much higher risk of dying early or developing various health conditions. Heart disease, lung cancer, and emphysema are just to name a few.
Thankfully, you can qualify for most plan options at smoker rates unless you currently have a serious health condition. Insurance companies will want to pay closer attention to your medical history, but you should be able to get the same coverage as a nonsmoker, just with higher monthly payments.
Smoker vs. Nonsmoker Rates: A Comparison
Although you can get life insurance as a smoker, it will cost you significantly more throughout the policy. According to some estimates, a smoker can pay up to three times the nonsmoker’s rate for the same plan. So, instead of spending $30 to $50 per month for life insurance, you could wind up with a bill of $90 to $150 or higher.
Here are some sample rates from some top companies to help you put these costs into perspective. Each amount listed reflects an annual coverage rate, and they are based on a 35-year-old male in excellent health. The prices are also based on a 20-year term policy with half a million dollars in death benefits.
- Company: Northwestern Mutual
- Non Smoker Rate: $381
- Smoker Rate: $1,006
- Company: Transamerica
- Non Smoker Rate: $365
- Smoker Rate: $1,065
- Company: MassMutual
- Non Smoker Rate: $290
- Smoker Rate: $1,285
As you can see, the difference is staggering. So, there is a strong financial incentive to quit smoking as well as all of the health-related reasons. However, quitting is only the first step, and the results are not universal across each company. If you’re thinking of quitting, it helps to know what to expect when searching for life insurance.
FAQs About Quitting Smoking and Life Insurance
How long after I’ve quit can I get nonsmoker rates?
While each company is slightly different, the consensus is that you have to be nicotine and tobacco-free for at least 12 months. However, there are some other milestones to consider when searching for life insurance.
For example, MetLife has four nonsmoker categories: Elite Plus, Elite, Preferred, and Regular. Depending on how long it has been since you’ve quit, you could potentially qualify for the highest rating, meaning far lower rates.
According to the company, ex-smokers who have not touched any tobacco products for five years can get Elite Plus coverage (assuming they are in excellent health). At the next tier down, that time frame shortens to three years. Not only that, but individuals are allowed to use tobacco products (i.e., pipes or chew) on occasion.
Alternatively, you can qualify for the regular nonsmoker rate after 12 months without cigarettes, and the occasional use of tobacco is still allowed.
If I plan on quitting, can I tell the insurance company I’m a nonsmoker?
No matter what, it is never a good idea to lie on a life insurance application. If the company finds out that you are a smoker or just recently quit, you can be denied coverage. Even worse, if your habits are discovered after your policy has taken effect, you could be guilty of insurance fraud.
Instead, it is far better to be open and honest about your smoking when signing up for a new plan. Some companies, like John Hancock, will give you nonsmoker rates for up to two years, assuming that you quit within that time frame.
Afterward, you have to be tobacco-free for another 12 months to keep the preferred rates. If you don’t make it, you will have to start paying smoker premiums, but your coverage remains the same.
Most insurance companies will look at your medical history when underwriting your policy. So, if your medical records show that you are or were a smoker and you didn’t disclose it on your application, you will be denied. You may have to take a medical exam in some cases, which will show nicotine in your bloodstream.
How does the insurance company verify that I am no longer smoking?
If you have quit for over a year, the company will want to give you a medical exam to verify your health.
However, one thing to keep in mind is that you can’t just say that you have quit for a year. For example, maybe you stopped three months ago but still want nonsmoker rates. Unless you got a medical test a year ago that showed you were tobacco-free, the insurance company would like more proof beyond your word.
What if I start smoking after I get life insurance?
The answer to this question depends on the type of coverage you have. If you purchase whole life insurance with level premiums, your rates will not increase if you start smoking after getting a policy. However, the company will want to verify that you did not smoke before, so you may have to provide more details to avoid insurance fraud claims.
If you have term insurance with level premiums, those will not go up either because they are locked in for the life of the policy. However, when it comes time to renew, you will have to pay smoker rates if you are still smoking.
If you started and then quit, the same rules we discussed earlier apply. As long as you have been nicotine-free for at least a year, you can get nonsmoker rates.
What if I already have life insurance and quit smoking?
Again, your options will depend on the type of coverage you have. Unfortunately, while level premiums won’t go up because you started smoking, they won’t go down because you quit.
If you have whole life insurance, you can likely renegotiate your policy terms once you have proof that you have quit for at least a year. However, keep in mind that rates increase as you get older.
So, let’s say that you purchase the plan with smoker rates at age 30 and then quit by age 38. By the time you reach 39, you can potentially qualify for nonsmoker status. However, because you are getting a new policy at this age, you cannot get the same rates as a 30-year-old.
What if I switch to e-cigarettes?
Although vaping and e-cigarettes are not as dangerous or unhealthy as regular cigarettes, insurance companies still see them as a risk. In many cases, e-cigarettes still contain nicotine, so they are not much better than a standard version.
That being said, if you are switching as a means of quitting smoking, you will want to tell your insurance company. Some providers may allow you to get a nonsmoker rate, but it will depend on various factors. Overall, disclose all of your smoking habits to your agent to see whether it will affect your premiums.
What if I only smoke on occasion?
While it may be tempting to lie on your application and say that you don’t smoke because you do so infrequently, there is always a chance of getting declined for insurance fraud. Whether you smoke once a month or only a few times a year, you will need to tell your insurance company. In some cases, you may still qualify for preferred rates, as long as you are in excellent health.
What if I only chew tobacco?
As a rule, insurance companies view most tobacco use as “smoking.” However, the primary question is how often you use it. As with the question above, if you only chew a handful of times throughout the year, you can still get nonsmoker rates with most companies. However, if it is a daily habit, you will be considered a “smoker,” even though you don’t technically smoke.
Contact NextGen Life Insurance Today
Before buying life insurance, it helps to speak with a professional. At NextGen Life Insurance, we can compare policy options and rates so that you get the best coverage at the right price. Whether you are currently a smoker or have recently quit, we’ll work with you to find a policy that works. Get your free quote today or call us at 646-216-4199 to get started.