If you use tobacco products, you might be wondering if you can qualify for life insurance coverage. The good news is that you can. However, you can expect to pay steeper rates compared to those of a non-smoker. Whether you use cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or e-cigarettes, life insurance companies tend to look at you as a smoker. The frequency of use can make a difference in some cases, but honesty is essential to ensure your beneficiaries receive proceeds if you pass away.
The CDC says that tobacco use is responsible for about one in five U.S. deaths.
Smoker rates for life insurance can be at least twice the amount of nonsmoker rates for people of the same age.
You might qualify for nonsmoker rates if you quit using tobacco for at least one year.
Paying smoker rates for life insurance now can eliminate the risk of dying without any coverage.
Can I get life insurance if I smoke or vape?
Yes, you can find coverage if you smoke, vape, or use other nicotine products. Your rates will be higher than a non-smoker’s rates.
Life insurance companies set premiums based on your current health and any activities that could endanger your health.
The use of tobacco is known to elevate the risk of dying early. Smokers live an average of 10 fewer years than nonsmokers, according to the CDC.
Your smoking history and current smoking habits can affect your eligibility for life insurance. Every insurer uses a different underwriting process to determine your level of risk and resulting eligibility.
Even among smokers, life insurance usually costs less for younger and healthier people. Older smokers with serious medical conditions can expect higher premiums than younger smokers without known conditions.
What counts as smoking?
Life insurance companies may differentiate their smoker rates according to the type of tobacco use – smoking, vaping, or chewing. Consuming these products, even occasionally, also typically counts as smoking for insurance purposes:
- Smoking cessation products
- Chewing tobacco
- E-cigarettes or vape pens
How can insurers learn about my nicotine use?
Insurance companies may employ various means to confirm whether you use nicotine products. This makes honesty of utmost importance, as giving false information will invalidate your policy.
An insurer will learn if you smoke or vape from your answers on the life insurance application. Next, they may ask for your medical records.
Sometimes, an insurer may request a urine, blood, saliva, or hair sample to find nicotine levels in your system. These tests could detect nicotine for up to 12 months.
Companies also test for cotinine, which forms after nicotine enters the body. Cotinine stays in the body longer, so measurements are more reliable for determining exposure to nicotine.
When can I be considered a non-smoker?
Most life insurance companies offer non-smoker rates to people who have quit using tobacco for at least one year. Some insurers wait up to five years.
If you have a life insurance policy and recently stopped smoking, you can request a review of your premium. Your insurer may ask you to have a new medical exam, though. Your premium could decrease if your health is good with no further conditions.
What if I smoke marijuana?
The use of marijuana also called cannabis, pot, or weed is legal in 23 states, Washington, D.C., and Guam. Some insurance companies cover people who smoke marijuana, potentially at the smoker rate.
You might need to disclose why and how often you use weed. If you use medical marijuana, be prepared to show your medical marijuana card or doctor’s note explaining your condition.
Although marijuana is legal for medical or nonmedical use in certain places, it is not necessarily safe. It is associated with health consequences including:
- Damage to heart and lungs
- Depression, social anxiety, schizophrenia, or suicidal ideation
- Attention, memory, and learning deficits
Each insurer has different guidelines, so you can ask an agent experienced with marijuana use to check rates for you.
Should a smoker get term or whole life insurance?
A term or whole life policy may provide benefits that appeal to different people. Consider your immediate and future needs for your loved ones as you shop for insurance.
Term life insurance for smokers
Some experts suggest getting a term policy if you intend to quit smoking soon. Once you’ve been tobacco-free for at least one year, you can be re-evaluated for nonsmoker status or shop around for a new insurer.
Current smokers may want to consider traditional term life insurance for coverage lasting 10 to 30 years. Short-term coverage is also available with annual renewable life insurance.
Bear in mind that when a term policy expires, you might need to purchase another policy for income protection. It will be more expensive because your age will have increased.
Whole life insurance for smokers
People who buy whole or permanent life insurance have the assurance that their premiums will remain the same. Young buyers may appreciate locking in lower rates for higher death benefits.
Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S., increasing risk for life insurance companies. Insurers are willing to provide coverage in exchange for higher premiums.
Whole insurance also offers an investment component, which a policyholder might borrow against while they are living. However, this type of coverage costs much more than term insurance, even for nonsmokers.
Kicking the habit might enable you to lower your life insurance costs and increase your chances of living longer and healthier. However, it’s better to purchase a policy now than to risk developing an uninsurable condition or passing away with no coverage.
What if I start smoking after purchasing a policy?
Once you have purchased a life insurance policy, your coverage and premium price are locked in for the term.
What if I don’t say that I smoke?
Lying or leaving out information about smoking habits on your life insurance application amounts to fraud. If the insurance company becomes aware of this, they can drop your policy without remuneration or refuse to pay your beneficiaries the death benefit.
Do I have to submit to a medical exam?
No, you can find insurance that does not require a medical exam. For instance, seniors can buy a guaranteed acceptance policy. This policy would have a limited death benefit, but it’s better than no coverage. It may also have an extended waiting period before paying out.