Smokers, on average, pay 2 to 3 times more for their life insurance coverage because tobacco causes so many life-threatening health conditions.
But smokers should still be able to find affordable coverage. In this post, we’ll discuss ways to find life insurance as a smoker or a recent ex-smoker.
We’ll also walk you through the process of comparing quotes from competing providers to help ensure you get the insurance you and your family need, whatever your current or past habits.
Regardless of your health or cigarette usage, you should be able to get an affordable and quality life insurance plan to protect your family. If you were to pass away, your loved ones would be left with a massive amount of debt.
Not having life insurance is one of the worst things that you can do for the future of your family, but just because you’re a smoker doesn’t mean that your premiums have to break your bank every month.
How Smoking Affects Your Life Insurance Rates
On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases, and for every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer from at least one serious illness from smoking.
An analysis by BestLifeQuote.com found that for a 45-year-old man who smokes tobacco, his monthly premium for 20-year term life insurance policy of $500,000 would be as low as $289, with most insurers offering a monthly premium of around $300.
For the same policy for the same man who didn’t smoke, the monthly premium would drop to as low as $52, with the average at around $80.
That’s almost four times as much higher for the smoker. That difference of $220 per month could buy a lot more life insurance for a non-smoker.
For a smoker in very good health besides smoking, they may get a “preferred nicotine rate” than a tobacco smoker with a standard or substandard life insurance rate who has a family history of cancer or other illnesses, says Cindy V. Gentry, incoming chair of the LIFE Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps consumers make insurance decisions, such as with its life insurance needs calculator.
“If you’ve got somebody who smokes a pack a day, you could save $5 a day,” Gentry says. “And that’s a lot of money you could spend on life insurance.”
Term life insurance rates are at least 50% higher for tobacco users, she says, and some insurers will include e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe smoking and other forms of nicotine use that don’t require inhaling tobacco smoke in those higher rates.
Whole life insurance rates can be about 20% higher for smokers.
Other lifestyles or medical conditions that can cause life insurance rates to be as high as tobacco users pay include pilots, people with diabetes, and cancer patients who beat cancer but have a chance of the disease returning, Gentry says.
How Different Kinds of Smoking Affects Rates
Insurance underwriters can consider a wide variety of tobacco — and even non-tobacco — products when they determine your eligibility for coverage and how much you’ll pay in premiums.
Most insurance companies consider using the following products high-risk activities:
- Cigars and/or pipes
- Smokeless tobacco (dip, chew, etc.)
- Vaping (e-cigarettes)
- Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs)
All of these habits can impact your insurance rates differently, so let’s take a closer look.
Among all forms of tobacco and similar products, cigarettes still cause the most serious documented health conditions, including cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia.
Cigarettes also have been linked to more general problems such as high blood pressure which can shorten your life.
With these kinds of serious illnesses connected to cigarettes, it’s no wonder life insurance companies charge higher premiums for smokers and why quote boxes like the one on this page have a question about tobacco use.
Some people wonder why they can’t just check “no” when they apply for coverage or get a quote. Doing so could save hundreds of dollars a year in premiums, right?
Doing this would also constitute insurance fraud, and it would prevent your family from claiming your death benefit which is the entire purpose of having coverage.
And, the underwriting process includes blood and urine tests which would reveal tobacco use, so it’s not as simple as answering a yes or no question.
Looking for More Nuance
Other applicants ask whether there’s any room for nuance in the underwriting process when it comes to cigarettes, and the answer is yes.
Within the larger puzzle of your application, your overall health, your occupation, your family’s health history, your age and gender, your coverage type, and several other factors, will work together to determine your rate.
Depending on your overall situation, you’ll find some companies who look more favorably on your tobacco status. An independent insurance agency like ours can help connect you with the right company.
What About Social Smoking?
Another source of nuance arises for applicants who have recently quit smoking or who smoke only occasionally.
To get non-tobacco life insurance rates, most companies require at least one and often two years without smoking. A few companies also look more favorably on occasional (sometimes called social) smokers.
Again, an independent insurance agent in your area or online can help you navigate this process quickly and efficiently.
Cigars and/or Pipes
Compared to cigarette smokers, cigar and pipe smokers can have an easier time finding non-tobacco rates, but it’s not always a slam dunk.
You’ll definitely need to have a clarifying conversation with your insurer because insurance companies still default to classifying cigar and pipe smokers as tobacco users, even though cigars and pipes aren’t directly related to as many health hazards.
By clarifying that you do not smoke cigarettes, you should be able to qualify for a non-tobacco rate if you also:
- Back Up Your Claim in the Exam: Your medical exam will be key to confirming your tobacco use. If you smoke pipe tobacco once or twice a year, don’t do so the night before your test.
- Use Only as Allowed: If you get approved for a non-smoking rate contingent upon smoking only one cigar a month, be sure to follow those guidelines.
- Find the Right Carrier: Insurance companies have different approaches to the use of cigars and pipes. Companies like Banner Life, AIG, Prudential, and Voya traditionally offer avenues for lower premiums.
Smokeless Tobacco Products
Life insurance applicants who use chewing tobacco, or other smokeless tobacco products such as snuff or dip, will face a similar scenario as people who smoke cigars or pipes.
Your insurer will classify you as a tobacco user unless you clarify your tobacco use as strictly smokeless and follow the same guidelines: confirming your claim in the health exam, using only as your policy allows, and finding the right insurance carrier.
Smokeless tobacco is still dangerous: These products have been connected to mouth, throat, and tongue cancer. If you’ve already experienced these kinds of illnesses, you’ll have a much harder time qualifying for non-tobacco rates.
The jury’s still out on how vaping affects life insurance rates, but there’s a really good chance they will make your rates higher.
Part of the mystery centers on how little we know about the long-term health effects of vaping. It’s still a relatively new technology.
While vaping does not put toxic smoke inside your lungs, there are other health-related factors such as:
- Nicotine: The delivery method is different, but vaping still delivers nicotine which is harmful to your health.
- Other substances: Vaping puts users in contact with the juice, metals, and a chemical reaction. Further study will be needed to determine the impact these substances could have on users’ health.
More and more insurers are responding to the mystery of vaping by raising insurance rates. Still, you shouldn’t expect to pay full-on tobacco rates.
To avoid tobacco rates, you’ll need to have a clarifying conversation with your underwriters. Your independent life insurance agent can help guide you through this process.
Marijuana use has become more socially (and legally) acceptable in many parts of the country. Still, not all life insurance companies have adopted this philosophy.
Marijuana use is still a hazy area. Some carriers look more favorably on marijuana use than others. Ultimately, your goal should be to stay in a non-tobacco classification.
Achieving this can be difficult. It will depend on how often and why you use marijuana. Ironically, recreational users have an easier time qualifying than medical marijuana users.
Why? Because medical use indicates a deeper, chronic health concern which will, by itself, cause underwriters more concern.
But even recreational users who smoke frequently will have a more difficult time finding lower-cost coverage.
Again, just like with cigarettes, fully disclosing your habits is a necessity, both legally and for the good of your beneficiary who may someday file a claim. And be assured: Any information you share on an insurance application will remain private.
Nicotine Replacement Therapies
If you’re using nicotine patches or gum to help you stop smoking, good for you. These products have helped hundreds of thousands of people stop smoking.
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as these still impact life insurance rates. For one, they indicate you have been a smoker. If you quit only recently — within the past couple years, for example — you may not yet qualify for non-tobacco rates.
But chances are good using a nicotine replacement therapy will help your case. As with other habits we’ve discussed in this post, you’ll just need to be upfront about your use of NRTs and seek guidance from an independent life insurance agent to find the best rates in the marketplace.
Obtaining An Affordable Rate As A Smoker or Recent Non-Smoker
To start off, it’s critical to find the right representative and insurance company. While a life insurance representative is not someone you talk to every day, this is one of those “seldom seen”, but pivotal relationships.
You can certainly call the state and national providers 1-800 numbers to start gathering quotes, but there’s a better way, and that’s why we are here.
We make it easy to get the largest number of competitive life insurance quotes for smokers and recent ex-smokers around, so you can compare the best life insurance companies rates for you and your family.
Let’s look at some different situations, some of the companies to expect and the prices you’ll be looking at:
30-year-old male smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage for a 20-year term
In this case here are the top 3 Quotes:
40-year-old smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage over the same 20-year term
Top 3 Quotes:
- Transamerica: $92.75 Per Month
- Banner Life $95.59 Per Month
- ING: $99.31 Per Month
50-year-old smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage over the same 20-year term
Top 3 Quotes:
- Transamerica $221.16 Per Month
- Banner Life $223.78 Per Month
- American General $225.01
The preceding examples provide a great case for why it’s best to work with an independent broker and get as many quotes as possible.
As you may have noted, the rates cited above show that the same company may not always provide the best price from one age bracket to another, and it’s no wonder.
As we’ve noted elsewhere on these pages, finding the best price is dependent on a variety of factors including age, coverage amount, lifestyle, family medical history, such as a history of cancer, and any other health factors and/or pre-existing conditions as well.
Choosing to go with a company that offers a policy that does not require a medical exam will also lead to higher rates. Colonial Penn Insurance is one company that is highly recognized for offering the guaranteed issue no exam plan, which is not the most affordable for anyone!
The bottom line is, when it comes to finding life insurance for smokers or recent ex-smokers it’s important to get as many quotes as possible and compare them until you find the best price for you and your family.
And while comparing is an easy the first step, understanding the “fine print” is equally important. Ok, so let’s say you’ve gone through the process, gotten a number of quotes and for whatever reason, the rates provided are still too high for your budget.
Can You Lower Your Costs?
At first glance, you might be worried that you can’t get affordable life insurance as a smoker. Think again.
Here are some tips to help you reduce those costs:
Reducing the Term Length
It may be the length of the life insurance that is the culprit. In this case, you can save money by going with a shorter term. You have to balance budget as well as finding the right term length that works best for you and your family.
Reducing the Coverage Amount
The first thing to consider when trying to bring down your life insurance premiums as a smoker or recent ex-smoker is to take a good look at how much life insurance you would really need to leave behind for your family, and for how many years it will be used?
A good place to start is by calculating the normal operating costs of your household, the remaining amount of your home mortgage that needs to be paid off or other factors including your children’s future college education, etc.
Next, create a concrete list of what is important for you and your family and how much coverage is absolutely necessary and for how long based on the duration of those debts and the current interest rates being paid on those debts.
Such an exercise may reveal that you actually need less coverage than you originally thought, and could help with saving money in the long run.
Renewing Your Term Every Year
While this is not a viable long term solution, those interested in life insurance for a short amount of time, or for those on a tighter monthly budget may consider the annual renewable term.
Be aware that initially this may be the cheapest route, but over time the rate will increase every year. As such, it’s a good idea to get into a longer term or permanent life policy sooner than later.
Consider Quitting Smoking
If quitting smoking in the near future is part of the plan, that’s great news. In that case, and you are serious about it, but still want to get life insurance now, it might be good to consider opting for a short term policy.
This way you can apply for a long term policy with better terms once you are not smoking and no longer have to pay the higher rates associated.
Remember that every additional year you remain tobacco-free and retested as such means your rates will continue to get better. After a year of not smoking, you will usually get the Standard Non-Tobacco Rate which is great news.
What’s more, after 3 years of not smoking, you will be eligible for the best possible rates as a non-smoker.
To quit smoking and get a non-smoker insurance rate, a smoker will have to quit for at least a year, and sometimes as long as five years. Once they get the lower rate after quitting smoking, policyholders aren’t required to be tested again for nicotine.
For smokers who want to quit this expensive and deadly habit, they’re not alone. The CDC reports that approximately 69% of smokers want to quit completely, and 52% of smokers attempted to quit in 2010.
That can add up to a lot fewer packs of cigarettes being bought, and a lot more ex-smokers possibly getting lower life insurance rates.
Improve Your Health
The better health you’re in, the better the results from the medical exam, which is going to translate into more money saved.
First, start a healthy diet and stick to it.
Eliminating junk food and replacing it with healthier options, this is going to have positive impacts on your health. It can lower your weight lower your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol.
But if you are overweight, you call still obtain quotes from companies who offer the best life insurance for obese individuals.
Next, start getting regular exercise.
Just like a diet, it’s going to have a positive impact on your health, which is going to mean better results from the medical exam. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get better insurance premium rates.
Because each insurer looks at smoking through such a different lens, we highly suggest taking the time to call us in order to find the company who is best matched to your personal use of tobacco.