Why Tobacco Use Matters to Life Insurance Companies

When you buy a life insurance policy, you and your new insurance carrier partner with a shared goal: your continued good health and the ability to always provide for your loved ones. For this reason, life insurance companies will want to know about your health and medical history, lifestyle, and habits before ever issuing you a new policy.

One of the most common concerns that carriers will have involves your tobacco use… and with good reason. According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, cigarette smoking causes more than 480,000 deaths in the United States annually, and is the leading cause of preventable death in our country. Smoking is also responsible for more than 90% of all lung cancer deaths, and kills more people each year than HIV, car accidents, alcohol and drug use, and firearm-related incidents combined.

If you use tobacco products — whether cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, vapes, pipes, or even marijuana — you increase your chances of not only developing certain health concerns, but also dying prematurely. And that’s something that neither your family nor your insurance carrier want to see happen.

Can You Buy Life Insurance If You Smoke?

Regardless of the health impacts, there are still more than 34 million smokers in America right now. Of those, many are adults with spouses and/or children that they want to protect with life insurance coverage. But will they be able to purchase coverage?

Luckily, you can buy life insurance if you smoke, regardless of the type of tobacco you use. You should just expect your coverage options, premiums, and even the application process to look a bit different than if you weren’t a tobacco user.

Some companies may have certain restrictions on tobacco use, as well. If you smoke four packs a day, for instance, certain carriers may deny you coverage altogether.

If you are a current or former tobacco user, you should be honest about this on any life insurance applications that you submit. You should also expect your carrier to test for the presence of nicotine, if you’re asked to submit to a paramedical exam during the application process.

Are Life Insurance Premiums Higher if You’re a Smoker?

If you are a tobacco user, you can almost always expect your life insurance premiums to be higher than if you were a non-smoker. Smoking (and other forms of tobacco) can lead to a number of health concerns and even shorten your life, which means that you pose a greater risk to life insurance companies as a tobacco user.

The difference in cost will depend on many things. In addition to the typical life insurance factors — such as your age, gender, location, medical history, health status, and occupation — carriers will also take into account:

  • How long you’ve been a smoker
  • What type(s) of tobacco you use
  • How often you smoke or use tobacco products
  • The quantity of tobacco products you consume (packs per day or cigars per month, for example)

Each of these will be considered during the underwriting process, which will allow your insurance company to determine your policy’s rate.

In some cases, a carrier taking the type and frequency of your tobacco use into consideration can be beneficial. For instance, some companies allow a few social or celebratory cigars each year without it affecting your rates.

Life Insurance and Former Smokers

Quitting smoking can not only benefit your health, it can also benefit your life insurance premiums.

If you are a former smoker — or are willing to quit — you can unlock lower rates than if you are a current tobacco user. In some cases, you may even be able to qualify for non-smoker rates, if enough time has passed since you quit using tobacco.

Tobacco use policies vary from one carrier to the next, so you’ll want to see what your options are with the carriers you’re considering. Some carriers will offer non-smoker rates to customers who stopped smoking more than two or three years ago, while others may only require you to be tobacco-free for 12 months.

If you need to buy coverage now and still smoke — or only recently stopped using tobacco — you also have options:

  • You can purchase a smoker’s policy now to protect your loved ones, even if it’s at a higher rate. Then, once enough time has elapsed, you can request a rate reconsideration through your carrier. (This often involves another paramedical exam.)
  • You can buy a shorter term life insurance policy now, and then apply for new coverage once you’ve been smoke-free for long enough.

Final Thoughts

Your family and your life insurance company both want you to stay as healthy as possible, so you can be around for your loved ones longer. But while using tobacco products can lead to a number of health concerns, you can still buy life insurance coverage to protect your family even if you’re a smoker.

Smoking or regularly using smokeless tobacco products will generally result in higher life insurance premiums. It may also limit the actual coverage you can purchase. Luckily, if you choose to quit smoking, you can typically qualify for lower rates again after just a short period of time!

LeapLife can help you find the right coverage through one of our trusted, A (or higher) rated life insurance partners, whether you are a smoker or non-smoker. Life insurance coverage is available in all 50 states and it only takes minutes to apply online!