How to Obtain Life Insurance as a Smoker

How to Obtain Life Insurance as a Smoker
Tabaco y seguros de vida

Tobacco addiction is one of the biggest obstacles on the way to life insurance. Many smokers are not able to get insurance companies to give them a life insurance policy, as their habit notably increases their risk. But tobacco does not have to be an insurmountable hurdle.

In this article, we analyze the influence that being a smoker has on taking out life insurance and we offer smokers alternative strategies to access a policy. Keep reading if you want to know how to get around the complications that tobacco presents when looking for a life insurance policy. 

Obtaining Life Insurance for Smokers: Table of Contents

Tobacco: #1 Enemy of Life Insurance

In the United States, millions of people smoke. In fact, 20% of men and 14% of women are smokers in this country. If you are one of them, you likely already know that your habit can complicate your access to life insurance. If it does not directly prevent you from being granted a policy, at the very least, it makes the price noticeably higher.

Why does tobacco have such a negative impact on the ability to obtain life insurance? The answer is simple: tobacco is the reason for the deaths of 480,000 people each year in the United States. What is more, it is estimated that one person dies from tobacco use every six seconds. That is because smoking is the direct cause of a large number of cancers, especially the infamous lung cancer. But it also plays a critical role in serious respiratory diseases, heart conditions, and other health problems.

In addition, the effects of tobacco on your health increase with time. The longer you have been smoking, the greater the likelihood that this addiction will have a negative impact on your health. As such, insurance companies consider whether or not you smoke when making life insurance quotes, and above all, during the process of qualification to obtain a life insurance policy.

For insurers, tobacco is a clear indicator of possible health problems that might shorten the life of the insured. In general, the life expectancy of a smoker is considered to be ten years shorter than someone who does not consume tobacco. This means that smoking notably increases the risks assumed by the insurer when offering someone a policy. As a result, prices tend to go up, and in some cases, access to insurance is denied altogether.

In order to avoid this problem, many people hide the fact that they are smokers from the insurer. This is one of the worst mistakes you can make when taking out life insurance, because if you state that you do not smoke and the insurance company can demonstrate that you died from tobacco use, they may even refuse to make a payout. They also have the right to cancel a policy if they can prove that the insured lied about not being a smoker. For these reasons, if you start smoking after taking out insurance, you must communicate this to your insurance company in case it is necessary to review your life insurance policy.

In addition, the insurer may require medical exams during the qualification process that include blood or urine tests, measurements of lung capacity, or other exams that will quickly indicate whether or not you smoke. Do not assume that these tests won't reveal your smoking habit: while nicotine is no longer detectable in the blood after three or four days, cotinine, a nicotine derivative, stays in the bloodstream for many weeks and is easy to identify. That is why insurance companies ask whether you have smoked in the last 12 months when you are applying for a policy.

How Much Does Tobacco Increase Your Insurance Premium?

Insurance companies inquire about your smoking habits within the span of a year because they consider a smoker to be someone who has smoked even just once in that time range. That means that it does not matter to them if you smoke very little or just once in a while; you are just as much a tobacco user as the person who smokes 30 cigarettes per day. Additionally, they take any kind of relationship to tobacco into account: cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, pipes, electronic cigarettes, nicotine gums or patches, marijuana, etc. All of these products are considered to be part of the same habit, and will impact life insurance to varying degrees.

But how big is this impact? How much will your life insurance go up if you smoke? Well, one thing is certain: all things being equal, a smoker will pay much more for the same insurance and the same coverage. For example, for 20-year temporary insurance with $200,000 worth of coverage, a non-smoking 40 year old man will pay about $22 dollars a month, while the premium would jump to $54 if he smoked. Over 20 years, the difference really becomes significant.

If you are thinking about permanent life insurance, you will have to pay even higher premiums and, in addition, these polices have more complex qualification process and more difficult exams.

Age can complicates things even more. Insurance companies are more lenient with young people, because they think a younger person still has time to stop smoking and detoxify their body. However, they believe that older people will no longer quit the habit, so they offer them higher prices.

When an insurance company analyzes the risk of a given person that does not smoke, they can be classified in various ways relative to her health status and lifestyle. But when assessing someone who smokes, the classification options decrease drastically, so there are basically two types: smokers in good heath and smokers in poor health. Therefore, the risk is considered to be much greater, and as a consequence, prices rise.

Advice on Obtaining Life Insurance If You Smoke

If you are in the habit of smoking and you want to obtain life insurance at a reasonable price, you have some options:

  • Stop smoking. This is the most obvious piece of advice, and without a doubt, the hardest to follow. For many people, it is practically impossible, and the majority would have to make an enormous effort. If you do manage to stop smoking, wait some time before undergoing the medical tests required by the insurer. You may need to wait a minimum of three months for your body to eliminate any hint of tobacco and be able to pass a blood test without problems. The ideal scenario would be to stop smoking for two years before requesting a life insurance policy.
  • Compare insurance companies. Not all insurers treat smokers the same way. Some are more tolerant of tobacco than others, while others do not have problems with electronic cigarettes, and there are even those that do not have a negative view of marijuana use. This is why the best thing to do is to ask for many quotes and compare the results carefully. That said, always make sure to make it clear that you smoke.
  • Review your policy. If you took out your insurance when you smoked and then stopped smoking later, you can ask your insurer for a policy review. In most cases, your premiums will be lowered.
  • No medical exam insurance. One option for the most difficult cases is no medical exam life insurance. The best-known example is guaranteed acceptance life insurance, but there are other options. Turning to this solution means paying higher premiums in exchange for low payouts, but this may be the only way for some people to access life insurance.
  • Reduce your coverage. If the price of your insurance policy becomes more expensive because of tobacco, you can negotiate lower coverage. This will reduce your premiums.

In conclusion, tobacco can significantly affect your ability to access life insurance at a good price, but that does not make it impossible. If you can't quit the habit, you can always look into other ways to make your premiums lower. In any case, the best thing to do is speak with an expert: insurance agents are familiar with all the options and will offer you the best alternatives. 

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