Here at IBUSA, we understand that lots of folks know that they need to purchase a life insurance policy for themselves, they’re just a bit nervous about how much it’s going to cost. This is particularly true if we’re talking about someone who is a current smoker or tobacco user.
You’ve spent any time “shopping” for life insurance as a smoker, you’ve probably already been told that smokers usually have to pay 3 to 4 times more for your life insurance than a non-smoker would!
Which is “technically” true.
Not all of the best life insurance companies are going to view all types of tobacco use the same, which means that for some, it may be possible to use a tobacco or nicotine product and not have to pay a full tobacco rate.
It may also be possible (depending upon how much coverage you’re looking for) to be able to purchase a life insurance policy that won’t even ask you if you do smoke or use nicotine in any way!
Which is why…
We wanted to take a moment and discuss how tobacco and/or nicotine use will be viewed by most life insurance companies. As well as consider some ways in which you may be able to save some money by choosing to apply with the “right” life insurance company right from the start!
Questions that will be addressed in this article will include:
- How does an insurance company define a “smoker”?
- Are all types of tobacco or nicotine use considered the same?
- What if I lie? How would an insurance company be able to tell?
- How long does one need to quit using tobacco before they will be considered a “non-tobacco” user?
- What “types” of life insurance policies won’t differentiate between smokers and non-smokers?
- What can I do to help insure I get the best rate?
So, without further ado, let’s get to it!
How does an insurance company define a “smoker”?
Insurance companies are pretty careful about how they define what a “smoker” or “tobacco user” is because they know that there are a lot of different “types” of tobacco users.
They also know that…
It’s not all that uncommon for some folks who only “occasionally” like to use tobacco or nicotine to downplay their usage.
- No, I’m not a smoker, I only smoke an occasional cigar when playing golf?
- No, I’m not a smoker, I’ll only smoke occasionally when I go out dancing or when I’m gambling at a casino?
- Sure, I occasionally “vape” now and then, but that’s not the same as actually smoking a cigarette.
- Sure, I like to use chewing tobacco, but that’s not nearly as dangerous as smoking cigarettes!
And these a just a few of the reasons why a lot of “tobacco users” won’t consider themselves as “tobacco users.”
For this reason…
Insurance companies like to keep things simple when trying to determine whether or not someone ought to be considered a tobacco user. This is why they’re usually just going to ask you one simple question to determine whether or not you may be classified as a smoker.
That question is:
“In the past 12 months, have you used ANY type of tobacco or nicotine products?”
Notice how this question doesn’t ask you “what” kind of tobacco or nicotine product you may have used or “how” frequently you may have used it.
All they want to know is have you used ANY tobacco or nicotine in the past 12 months PERIOD.
If you have…
Then there is an excellent chance you are going to be considered a tobacco user and thus have to pay tobacco rates unless you fall into a small subgroup of tobacco users and you choose to apply with the “right” insurance company that tends to be a bit more “lenient” with who they will and won’t consider an non-tobacco user.
Are all types of tobacco or nicotine use the same?
What you’re generally going to find is that the majority of life insurance companies are going to consider any and all tobacco use the same.
This means that whether you smoke two packs a day or just occasionally smoke a cigarette when out with your friends, MOST life insurance companies are going to consider you a tobacco user.
Which is a big deal…
Because remember, “tobacco rates” tend to be two or three times more expensive than non-tobacco rates!
The good news…
That some life insurance companies WON’T consider every “type” of tobacco use the same. This means that in some cases, an individual can use tobacco and STILL be able to qualify for a “non-tobacco” rate!
That said …
It’s pretty safe to assume that if your tobacco product of choice is a “traditional cigarette,” you’re pretty much going to be stuck paying a “tobacco” rate.
But, if your tobacco product of choice is some other “type” of tobacco or nicotine product, there is a chance that you may be able to avoid a “tobacco rate” provided you know where to look.
For this reason…
Let’s just briefly discuss some of the most common “alternative” tobacco products that we commonly encounter and briefly discuss how some of the more liberal life insurance companies will treat them.
Before we do that though…
we do feel a bit compelled to point out that even though certain tobacco or nicotine products may not be “deemed” as dangerous as other tobacco or nicotine products, we’d hate to leave you with the impression that any of them are all that healthy. Plus, they’re really expensive!
So our advice is that once you get insured, quit. Then you can use the money that you save to pay for your insurance!
Types of tobacco or nicotine products other than traditional cigarettes
Initially, when E-Cigarettes came out, there weren’t many life insurance companies that would be willing to make any kind of distinction between these and traditional types of cigarettes.
This has begun to change and now what we’re finding is that some E-Cigarette users can “sometimes” qualify for a Non-Tobacco rate.
Now they’re probably not going to be able to qualify for a Preferred Non-Tobacco rate, but who cares at this point as long as you’re not labeled a “tobacco user.” This, of course, assumes that you do apply with the “right” life insurance company.
Despite how much evidence there is showing how dangerous long term use of chewing tobacco can be, there are a couple of life insurance companies who are willing to consider chewing tobacco users as “non-tobacco users.”
Which will, in turn…
All them to avoid the much higher prices tobacco users usually have to pay for their insurance.
We should note, however…
That these “users” aren’t going to be able to qualify for a Preferred Non-Tobacco rate even if their current health status would warrant such a rate. In fact, the best rate that they’ll probably be able to qualify for will be a Standard Non-tobacco rate.
Cigar smokers may also be able to qualify for a non-tobacco rate as well, provided that they choose to apply with the “right” life insurance company, and they do not smoke more than one cigar a week.
Some insurance companies may also stipulate that they also haven’t applied for coverage with another life insurance company (and tested positive for nicotine) within the past 12 months.
This brings us to the next topic that will often come up which is…
What if I lie? How would an insurance company be able to tell?
The first thing that we want to make very clear to anyone thinking about purchasing a life insurance policy is that it’s crucial to always be honest.
The main reason is because a life insurance policy is a legal contract where an insurance company agrees to provide your family with a death benefit in exchange for a monthly or annual premium.
And like all…
Legal contracts, both parties must be “of sound mind” and must be entering into the contract in “good faith.”
This means that neither part (you or the insurance company) should be knowingly misrepresenting what is going on. If they do, it can potentially VOID the contract.
Now in the case…
Of someone lying about their tobacco use, a lie like this on its own probably wouldn’t completely VIOD the contract, but it could.
Particularly if you also suffer from some other “type” of pre-existing medical condition combined with your tobacco use, which would have caused the insurance company to deny your application.
People who suffer from:
Can and often will be able to qualify for a traditional life insurance policy.
However, when a condition like this is combined with current tobacco use (of any kind), most life insurance companies won’t be willing to provide coverage.
This means that if you suffer from a condition like this and you lie about your usage, the is a chance that a life insurance company would “contest” your policy in which case your loved ones might not receive the coverage you thought you were buying for them!
This is an example of an extreme case on why you should always be honest on your life insurance application.
A more practical reason is that, in situations, where an individual is open and honest with their life insurance agent from the start, they will have a much better chance at helping them qualify for the “best” policy that they can qualify for.
Many times, to be able to qualify for the “best” rate, an insurance company will demand that an applicant be honest right from the beginning.
And in situations…
Where it is proven that they weren’t, they may still be able to qualify for coverage, only now the insurance carrier will be unwilling to approve them and what would have been a better rate had they be honest from the start!
Which is the main reason why you should always be honest on your life insurance application.
The second reason why you should always be honest on your life insurance application is that life insurance companies are excellent at figuring out who is lying to them anyways.
How would a life insurance company be able to tell if I were lying about my tobacco use?
There are a variety of different ways that a life insurance company can tell if someone is lying about whether or not they have used any tobacco or nicotine products in the past 12 months.
The first and most obvious way…
Would be for an individual to “claim” that they haven’t used any kind of tobacco or nicotine products but then test positive for “nicotine” when submitting a blood and/or urine sample during a typical life insurance application.
Now some folks…
May “claim” that they still don’t smoke and that the nicotine in their system must be the result of “second hand smoke”.
But be advised that is argument isn’t likely to work since most life insurance companies have plenty of data indicating what levels of nicotine can be attributed to such “second hand” exposure.
Or they decide to apply for a no medical exam life insurance policy as a way to avoid getting tested all together!
But that’s just one way…
A life insurance company can learn about any potential tobacco use. Insurance companies may also discover someone’s tobacco usage by taking a look at one’s medical records, where your doctor may have made notes indicating that you are a tobacco user.
You may have been prescribed some type of medication designed to help you quit smoking in the past, which will be listed within your prescription medication database history, which the insurance companies will have access to as well.
If you have applied for a life insurance policy in the past, results from such applications are shared among different life insurance companies in a report called the Medical Information Bureau or MIB, which will be available to an insurance company as well. T
his means that if you have previously applied for a life insurance policy in the past, and tested positive for nicotine back then, the current insurance company that you’re applying with now will have access to that information.
Which is why…
It’s always best to be as honest as possible so that you don’t encounter any “surprises” during your application process, which could negatively affect your chances to qualify for the best rate possible for years to come!
How long does one need to quit using tobacco before they will be considered a “non-tobacco” user?
Assuming that one isn’t able to qualify for a Non-Tobacco rate, what you’re generally going to find is that you will need to be completely “tobacco-free” for a minimum of one year before you will be able to qualify as a “non-smoker.”
We should point out…
Many life insurance companies won’t begin considering someone completely “tobacco-free” until they have stopped using their tobacco product of choice entirely and are no longer using any kind of “aid,” which may be helping that to quit.
Which means that…
If you’ve quit but continue to rely on nicotine gum, nicotine patches or some type of prescription medication to help you “stay quit”, most life insurance companies are going to continue to consider you a smoker until you no longer require such aids.
Even after you have completely quit using/relying on any and all forms of tobacco or nicotine products one should be aware that you may still not be eligible for the “best” possible non-tobacco rates.
This is because…
These “types” of rates are often reserved for those who have remained abstinent for a minimum of 2 years or more.
What “types” of life insurance policies won’t differentiate between smokers and non-smokers?
Now sometimes, quitting or waiting one or two years to qualify for a “rate” that one can afford isn’t an option.
After all, if quitting was easy, there probably wouldn’t be as many smokers in this world as there are today, and there probably wouldn’t billion-dollar industry in place to help folks quit!
Which is why…
We now want to shift gears a bit and talk about what “kind” of life insurance policies may be available to those who either can’t quit smoking or aren’t all that interested in trying!
There are a couple of different “types” of life insurance policies (mainly simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance policies) that aren’t going to “test” or even “ask” an individual whether or not they use any kind of tobacco products.
These “types” of life insurance policies will certainly be a great opportunity for some; it’s important to understand that these “types” of life insurance policies usually have some significant disadvantages attached to them which may be a deal-breaker for some.
These disadvantages will usually include:
- Smaller coverage amounts (usually 50,000 or less).
- Higher dollar for dollar premium amounts compared to other “types” of life insurance policies.
- A graded death benefit.
Graded Death Benefit Defined:
Graded Death Benefits are “clauses” written into most (if not all) final expense life insurance policies which state that a guaranteed issue life insurance policy won’t begin to cover an individual from “natural causes” of death until a certain waiting period has elapsed.
This “waiting period” will usually last 2 to 3 years and is designed to make sure that someone who knows that they are very close to death from being able to purchase these “types” of life insurance policies.
This may seem incredibly unfair; it’s important to remember that a guaranteed issue life insurance policy isn’t going to require you to take a medical exam or answer any health-related questions.
So, at the end of the day, a graded death benefit is the only thing that allows insurance company to be able to offer one of these “types” of life insurance policies.
The good news is…
That while you may have to wait for 2 to 3 years for one a Guaranteed Issue Life Insurance policy to provide you true life insurance protection, these “types” of life insurance policies will provide immediate coverage for any “accidental causes” of death and may also offer some kind of “return of premium” to the beneficiaries an insured applicants.
They do end up dying from natural causes before their Graded Death Benefit expiring.
So, it’s sort of like buying a small Accidental Death Policy that will ultimately “turn into” a true-life insurance policy after a while.
What can I do to help insure I get the best tobacco life insurance rate?
As you can see, when it comes time to qualifying for the best life insurance rates, lots of factors can come into play.
First, we need to understand what you’re hoping to achieve by purchasing your life insurance policy.
Then from there, we’ll need to figure out “which” life insurance company is going to provide you with the best opportunity for success.
Which means that…
You’re going to want to make sure that the agent that you choose to work with asks the right questions, understand what “kind” of tobacco you use and understands there certain life insurance companies will have different underwriting guidelines that they are going to use when making decisions about the “kind” of rate you might be able to qualify for.
Your still going to need an agent that is going to have access to the different life insurance companies that may be the “best” for you.
This is why we here at IBUSA work so hard to establish and maintain relationships with so many different insurance companies so that when we have a client like yourself give us a call, we don’t have to rely on just one or two different insurance companies.
We can simultaneously shop dozens of different life insurance carriers to find the “best” one for you! So, give us a call and allow us to help you and your family out.