There is no question about it life insurance is a critical safety net and everyone needs it.
This is especially true for smokers, who on average live 10 years less than non-smokers.
Life insurance provides your family with the financial security they’ll need in the event of your passing. But finding the right insurance company and coverage can be a complicated process for smokers.
As a smoker, you are aware that your premiums will most likely be higher than non-smokers and your options a bit more limited.
Yet more and more insurance companies have begun recognizing the need for cost effective coverage for smokers. The marketplace has seen substantial growth in insurers offering lower rates for their smokers.
So, the good news is just because it can be a daunting process doesn’t mean affordable life insurance for smokers isn’t out there. It is.
Read on to learn the in’s and out’s of life insurance for smokers and the critical elements to gaining affordable rates.
Life Insurance for Smokers – How Insurers Classify You
In a broad sense, insurers are trying to first determine if the applicant is using nicotine in any form.
Most smokers understand because of the health risks that go along with the habit, such as increases in cancer, respiratory, and vascular disease, insurers are going to charge them more.
Usually, the question that classification answers is “how much more?”.
Each insurance company will differ in how they qualify candidates based on specific questions about health, lifestyle choices and the amount of tobacco usage.
Although exact terms vary there are levels of classification including preferred select, preferred, standard plus and standard.
Traditionally, smokers will also have their own categories such as preferred smoker and standard smoker.
This process includes an interview to learn more about your health history, weight, age, pre-existing conditions, job, hobbies, and other potential risk factors.
The answers you provide allow insurers to determine how much of a risk you may be to the insurance company with regard to paying out on a claim.
Once companies have an idea of your health profile along with the amount of usage and type of tobacco products, they’ll break-down applicants into the following risk classes:
- Preferred Smoker: Excellent health except that applicant smokes occasional non-cigarette tobacco products.
- Standard Smoker: Average level of health and routinely smokes or uses tobacco. This class can expect to pay the highest rates.
Again, which category you are placed into is largely based on the health information you provide during your interview as well as the results of your medical exam.
It’s worth mentioning even though rates may be more expensive for life insurance for smokers, it’s important to be up-front and truthful throughout the entire process.
Be honest about being a smoker and don’t claim to have quit (unless you actually have). Why? Two words … insurance fraud. And yes, it’s illegal.
Insurers can easily find out if you are telling them the truth because nicotine use will show up in your medical exam results.
If an insurance company discovers you’ve lied on the application, they can deny you the coverage.
In the case of an insured party passing, insurance companies can further investigate. Again, if they find you’ve falsified information they are no longer required to pay your claim.
This means your family goes without money for funeral costs, living expenses and leaves them with no substitute for the loss of income.
Can Smokers Skip the Medical Exam?
The short answer is yes. Some smokers choose to apply for no-medical-exam life insurance or guaranteed issue life insurance.
This type of insurance is usually best for smokers who are between the ages of 40 and 70. Only need small coverage amounts, think 25,000 or less. And are looking for money to cover funeral expenses and other final costs.
While approval is guaranteed, the one drawback is a heftier monthly payment. Insurers are taking a chance on giving coverage to someone without health information. So, smokers pay more for this type compared to insurance priced using medical results.
Does It Matter What Type of Tobacco Product You Use?
It all depends. Some life insurance companies differentiate rates based on the type of tobacco product you use.
Most insurance companies consider people using cigarettes, e- cigarettes and chewing tobacco to be traditional smokers. While those who use cigars may get off with a lower rate.
Like standard smokers, marijuana users will find most insurance carriers base their rates off frequency of use. And around 30% of insurance companies view marijuana users as non-smokers.
How to Lower Insurance Premiums?
Quitting smoking is obviously the best option.
For lower rates, the majority of insurers want applicants to have kicked the habit for at least a year.
Yet, some companies like John Hancock will give you nonsmoker rates for certain policies before you’ve given up smoking.
To keep the lower rates, your labs must show you are nicotine-free within the first two years or your rates rise.
The best way to make sure you get the lowest rate on your insurance is to shop around. That means reading up on the best insurance companies for smokers.
Favorable companies are more likely to differentiate between e-cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco.
Another key to getting affordable rates is to make sure you’re not getting too little or too much coverage.
To determine the amount of coverage you need take a look at your financial debts such as home and car payments. Add in funeral expenses and the money your family would need to replace your income. This should give you a good idea of the amount of insurance you must have.
No one wants to think about the loss of life, especially a loved one. Yet, getting life insurance for smokers can make a tragic situation less stressful.