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How to get life insurance if you’re a smoker
You can expect to pay higher life insurance premiums until you kick the habit.
Smoking not only affects your health in the long run, but it also raises your life insurance rates. Your premiums will be 2 to 3 times higher compared to a nonsmoker, unless you decide to quit smoking and reapply after you’ve been tobacco-free for a year.
What's in this guide?
- Can I get life insurance if I smoke?
- Does it matter how often I smoke?
- What's the best life insurance policy for smokers?
- Compare life insurance for smokers
- How much is life insurance for smokers?
- Why do smokers pay more for life insurance?
- Which policy increases premiums the most for smokers?
- How do I get affordable life insurance if I'm a smoker?
- Bottom line
Can I get life insurance if I smoke?
Yes, but you’ll likely pay much higher premiums. When you apply for coverage, your insurer will ask questions to figure out whether to classify you as a smoker or nonsmoker. It doesn’t matter if you smoke socially or all the time — if you use tobacco, you’ll be categorized as a smoker under underwriting guidelines.
- Chewing tobacco
- Vapes and electronic cigarettes
- Nicotine patch or gum
- Marijuana — though if you vape rather than smoke marijuana, you may not be classified as a smoker
Does it matter how often I smoke?
Yes, the frequency with which you smoke has a direct affect on your premiums. As a smoker, you’re not eligible for any insurer’s preferred rating classes. Your insurer will put you in one of two rating classes based on how often you smoke:
- Preferred smoker. A casual or habitual smoker in otherwise good health, or someone who has recently quit smoking.
- Standard smoker. A smoker who’s overweight or has other health issues, such as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
What’s the best life insurance policy for smokers?
The best policy comes down to your needs or budget. These are your options:
- Term life insurance. The simplest policy, term life insurance offers temporary life insurance overage for a specific length of time, like 10, 15 or 20 years. It pays out a guaranteed death benefit when you die.
- Permanent life insurance. If you want to treat your life insurance policy as a cash asset, look into a permanent policy, like whole life. These policies provide lifelong coverage and build cash value over time — but the premiums can be 6 to 10 times higher than term life, and even higher for smokers.
- Simplified issue life insurance. If you’d prefer to skip the medical exam, you could apply for simplified issue policy. You’ll still need to fill out a health questionnaire, but most people are approved for coverage.
Compare life insurance for smokers
How much is life insurance for smokers?
Since smokers are seen as high-risk, they can expect to pay more for coverage. Generally, smoker’s rates can be two or three times higher than the standard rate — but some insurers are more lenient than others.
When determining your rate, your insurer will look at the following factors:
- The type of smoker you are. Are you a casual or heavy smoker? Insurers will want to know how many cigarettes or packs you smoke a day. They’ll also assess the way you consume nicotine, whether it be chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars or a nicotine patch.
- How long you’ve been smoking. To make an accurate assessment of your risk levels, underwriters will ask how long you’ve been a smoker. The longer you’ve been a tobacco user, the higher the risks for critical illnesses related to smoking.
- When you quit smoking. You’ll only be classified a nonsmoker if you haven’t had nicotine in the last 365 days.
Smoker vs nonsmoker life insurance premiums
There’s a distinct difference when it comes to the price of life insurance premiums for a smoker or nonsmoker. For example, here’s what monthly premiums could cost for a male buying a 20 year term policy with $500,000 worth of coverage:
*Sample quotes provided by Quotacy
Why do smokers pay more for life insurance?
Smoking is associated with health risks and complications, so insurers charge more for coverage because there’s a higher chance they’ll need to pay out your policy. These are some of the stats to support that logic:
- Smoking can have a direct correlation with heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) state that a smoker’s life is 10 years shorter than that of a non-smoker.
- The risk of dying from heart disease because of smoking can be tripled for a middle-aged person.
However, if you put down the cigarettes for good by the time you’re 40 years old, you can decrease the risk of dying from diseases related to smoking by nearly 90%.
Can I get life insurance if I smoke marijuana?
It depends on your insurer and where you live. Marijuana isn’t legal on the federal level, but it is legal in many states across the US. Because of that, some insurance companies have become much more lax with applicants who smoke weed medicinally. But if you’re a recreational pot smoker, you may be deemed as a high-risk applicant.
How do I get affordable life insurance if I’m a smoker?
Here are some steps you can take to lower your premium.
- Kick the habit. The first and most logical step to reduce your premium — and improve your health — is to quit smoking as soon as possible. If you’ve quit for 12 months or more, life insurance providers will view you as a nonsmoker and you should be able to find cost-effective coverage.
- Shop around. Compare rates and policy features from a range of insurers. Underwriting guidelines vary between insurers, so you may be able to get a much lower rate by doing a little more research.
- Reassess your policy. If you bought life insurance when you were a smoker, reach out to your insurer to see if they’ll review your policy now that you’ve quit. If they aren’t willing to reduce your premiums, another insurer may be able to offer you a more competitive price for coverage.
- Enlist the help of an insurance agent or broker. They know the market, so they can help you to find the provider and policy that best meets your needs and budget. They can also explain the features and benefits of different life insurance plans, and answer any questions you might have.
You can still get life insurance if you’re a smoker — but you can expect to pay a lot more for coverage. To get the best possible rate, compare life insurance companies and consider working with an agent or broker who specializing in high-risk applicants.
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