As a smoker, life insurance may seem out of reach. However, it may be more accessible than you believe – discover how much life insurance is if you’re a smoker.
For most people, buying life insurance is a relatively straightforward process. They pick the amount of the death benefit they want, they decide between term and whole life insurance, and they figure out if they should include any riders (i.e., accidental death and dismemberment).
Unfortunately, for smokers, this process is much different. However, while smoking can significantly limit your options for life insurance, the fact is that smokers can still get coverage.
In this article, we’ll outline the various factors that insurers pay attention to and how you can prepare for them. We’ll also answer the big question: how much is life insurance for smokers?
Life Insurance for Smokers: A Primer
As with any other kind of insurance, companies want to minimize their level of risk. If a person gets into a lot of automobile collisions, for example, the insurance company will raise his or her premiums accordingly. The fact is that insurers don’t want to lose money, so they like to invest in low-risk opportunities.
When it comes to life insurance, smoking is always a high-risk habit. We’re not going to dive into the numerous scientific studies that show how bad smoking is for your health, but suffice it to say, smokers are generally worse off than non-smokers.
That being said, getting a policy is not impossible, even if you’ve been smoking for years. So, the first thing to remember is that life insurance is within your reach. However, as a smoker, you will need to accept a few things.
- First, your premiums will be higher than non-smokers. In some cases, it could be substantially higher.
- Second, you may not get coverage from your preferred insurance company. While many insurers do offer policies for smokers, some brands don’t. Unfortunately, you don’t get much of a say in this.
- Finally, the details of your habit will be taken into account. Insurance companies recognize that not all smokers are alike, so they will usually base your plan and your premiums according to your situation.
How Much is Life Insurance for Smokers?
While we would love to be able to provide a hard number for this question, the fact is that there are quite a few variables that can affect premium prices. In many cases, though, smokers can expect to pay at least three times what a non-smoker would pay. However, there are a variety of details that can affect premium pricing.
So, before we look at dollar signs and money figures, let’s break down the various elements that insurance companies will look at when drafting a policy.
Life Insurance Variables to Consider
For the most part, older people are harder to insure than younger ones. As a smoker, the older you are, the higher your premiums will be, even if you’re in relatively decent health. Typically, any age over 30 will be more expensive, and if you’re over 50, the costs could be significantly higher.
As we mentioned, the kind of smoking you do will affect your policy rates and conditions. Here are a few variables that insurers will consider when assessing your smoking habits.
- Frequency – do you smoke a pack a day, or just on social occasions? As you can imagine, smoking less frequently can improve your rating.
- Type of Smoking – while cigarettes are generally the worst, insurers will consider whether you smoke pipes or cigars. In some cases, that can lower your rates.
- Duration – while your age is a substantial factor, the length of your smoking habit can be even more crucial. For example, if you’ve only been smoking for a year, you’ll be much less of a risk than someone who’s smoked for 20 years.
With some insurers, a medical exam may not be necessary when getting a policy. For smokers, however, the chances of avoiding an exam are relatively slim. Because smoking is such a destructive habit, insurance companies want to make sure how healthy you are before drafting a plan. The exam will also impact your premiums.
It’s important to note that long-time smokers can still get coverage. As a general rule, if an insurance company does cover smokers, the only difference will be the price. As long as you’re willing to pay higher premiums, you can get life insurance.
What Happens if You Quit Smoking?
Thankfully, quitting can have a positive effect on your insurance rates. However, it will really depend on your particular situation. Let’s look at a couple of scenarios and the best options for life insurance plans.
If you stopped smoking within the last year, your premiums would still be high. This is because the insurance company doesn’t know if you’ll get back into the habit. Unfortunately, nicotine is highly addictive, so the chance of a relapse is relatively high.
In this instance, you may want to get a short-term policy (like five or 10 years). Once that term is close to expiring, you can get a new medical exam and renew it. If you haven’t started smoking again during the term, you can usually get a better premium rate.
Again, the duration of both your habit and the length of time since you quit can have a substantial impact on your rates. For example, if it’s been five years since you last smoked, your premiums won’t be as low as if you quit 10 or 20 years ago.
Typically speaking, if you quit long enough ago, it won’t affect your insurance possibilities. The insurer may still want a medical exam to be sure, but you should be able to qualify for much lower rates. In this instance, you can often choose between term and whole life insurance without paying too much more (if at all).
Disclosing Your Habit
Once you see the premium prices for smokers, you may be tempted to either lie outright about your habit or play it down. No matter what, do not do this. Lying on your life insurance form constitutes fraud, which can incur some hefty penalties. Not only that, but the insurer can drop your policy or deny a claim based on fraudulent evidence.
Whenever you sign up for life insurance, there is a two-year “contestability period.” During this time, the insurance company can dispute any discrepancies in your report.
Instead, it’s best to talk directly to an insurance agent about your smoking. Be sure to be as detailed as possible. Overall, the medical exam will dictate much of how your rates are determined, but talking with an agent can help alleviate the pressure and may enable you to seek multiple offers.
Also, keep in mind that you need to be upfront about your smoking when you’re trying to quit as well. You may not be a current “smoker,” but the lingering effects of the habit can still be present in your body. Again, be sure to talk with an agent about your situation.
Finally, if you start smoking after getting a policy, you’ll need to let your agent know. Failing to do so could lead to a denial of a death benefit claim. It’s never good to take the risk – be open and honest at all times. Don’t put your loved ones in a precarious position because you were trying to save a little bit of money.
Alternatives to Smoking
When we talk about being a smoker, we’re usually referring to smoking cigarettes. However, there are other forms of smoking, which can affect your insurance rates accordingly. Let’s run through the various alternatives and how insurance companies treat them.
Unlike cigarettes, people can smoke cigars and/or pipes without becoming addicted. No one is going through boxes of cigars every day. Also, these options are not as full of chemicals and toxins, meaning that they are not as dangerous to your health.
As a general rule, if you smoke cigars or pipes on occasion, you don’t need to classify yourself as a “smoker.” That being said, you still need to make sure to bring it up to your insurance agent, particularly if you smoked before your medical exam. If tobacco shows up in your system, they need to understand the situation as much as possible.
Like cigars, chewing or smokeless tobacco doesn’t come with the same level of health risks. However, that largely depends on how often you use it. Some insurers may rate you as a non-smoker if you only chew, while others may still see it as a significant risk factor.
Again, be upfront about your habits. Providing more insight is always better, as it can help them assess your case more accurately.
Currently, there is a lot of debate over how “healthy” e-cigarettes are compared to regular ones. However, while there can still be some health issues that come from vaping, it is undoubtedly an improvement over traditional smoking.
Part of the problem is that vaping is still relatively new, so there is not sufficient evidence to support risk factors either way. That being said, two distinctions can impact your rates more than anything else.
Vaping as a Means of Quitting
If you were a heavy smoker, but you’ve recently switched to e-cigarettes, that can potentially help your case, but it mostly depends on the insurer. Since there are likely still lingering health effects from your smoking, it’s probably too early to get labeled as a non-smoker.
For those who have only been into vaping and not cigarettes, you may be able to get classified as a non-smoker. That being said, as more and more data emerges about the long-term health effects of vaping, that can change in the future. Keep in mind that if hard evidence comes out against e-cigarettes, your insurance rates may rise accordingly.
Marijuana Smoking and Life Insurance
Now that marijuana is becoming legal in more and more states, insurance companies have had to start figuring out what that means for life insurance policies. One of the most crucial distinctions, though, is whether you smoke for recreational purposes or health-related reasons.
Typically, if you’re using marijuana for your health, that means you have other illnesses that require ongoing treatment (i.e., seizures, cancer, etc.). For the most part, your insurance company will pay closer attention to those issues than your marijuana usage.
For recreational smokers, some insurers are okay with it and won’t count it against your non-smoker status, while others may treat it more severely.
Comparing Plans and Rates
As you’ve no doubt noticed, there can be some substantial differences between insurance companies when it comes to smoking. Because of that, you will need to spend a lot more time meeting with agents and comparing options.
While non-smokers may be able to talk to one or two insurers and get the right plan for their needs, smokers need to comparison-shop a lot more thoroughly. In some cases, you may want to talk to four or five different companies to see how their policies differ.
So, with that in mind, be sure to have all of your details collected and ready to go. Also, in some cases, you may be able to use the medical test from one insurance company to satisfy the requirements of another. Overall, you need to be comprehensive and patient, as the process can take a lot longer, assuming that you’re trying to find the best coverage at the most reasonable price for your budget.
As we mentioned, some life insurance companies won’t cover smokers, regardless of your situation. Getting denied is a part of the comparison process, so don’t get discouraged. Just because one or two insurers won’t cover you doesn’t mean that life insurance is out of reach.
Bottom Line: Life Insurance for Smokers is Possible
At NextGen Life Insurance, we can work with you to help you find the right insurance policy for you and your loved ones. While being a smoker does complicate things, we’re here to help guide you through this process. Contact us today to find out more about how we can assist you in your quest to buy life insurance.