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Can you hide smoking from life insurance companies?

You may think that you won’t get caught if you lie about smoking on your life insurance application. However, lying to your insurer may ultimately result in your loved ones being left with nothing.

Life insurance companies ask you about smoking on applications. They want to get a complete picture of your life and health. That includes whether you smoke, chew tobacco or use nicotine products.

Life insurers usually don’t differentiate between the type of nicotine. It could be cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco or nicotine-suppression products. An insurer may consider you a smoker if you use e-cigarettes. Vaping often contains nicotine. Plus, even if you’re vaping to quit smoking, insurance companies usually don’t consider that a smoke cessation tool.

Insurers approach tobacco use in various ways. Many policies will allow limited use of cigars, such as a dozen cigars a year, but smoking more cigars could get your considered a smoker.

One might consider you a nonsmoker after no nicotine products for three or five years. Another policy may allow chewing tobacco. Still others could give you nonsmoker rates temporarily if you’re trying to kick the habit.

 

Should you lie on your life insurance application?

You might be tempted to lie on your application. That’s not a good idea.

The application will ask you if you’ve smoked in a specific length of time, such as 12 months. The insurer will also ask you how much you smoke. A one-pack-a-day smoker may pay higher rates than a person who smokes one cigarette after dinner. The insurer will still classify you as a smoker regardless.

Life insurance policies generally require a medical exam. Tests will look for nicotine that’s usually in a person’s bloodstream for three days. They’ll also search for cotinine, a nicotine byproduct. Cotinine is in the bloodstream longer.

There are “no exam” policies that allow you to sidestep exams. These policies include guaranteed-issue and simplified-issue. That said, it’s still not wise to lie on your application.

Regardless of the type of policy, lying on the application can result in you classified as a smoker if the insurer finds out. You may even go your whole life thinking you got away with it.

However, if an autopsy finds smoking-related illnesses, the insurer may reject the death benefit and not pay your survivors.

So, it’s really not wise to lie on your application.

 

What if you start smoking after getting life insurance?

You should notify your insurer if you have a nonsmoker policy, but start smoking later.

Why? It goes back to the possibility that you die and an autopsy finds a smoking-related illness. The insurer could reject the death penalty because you claimed to be a nonsmoker.

Smoker rates are much higher than nonsmoker policies. You might want to keep quiet about your new smoking habit. However, it’s a smart decision to notify your insurer and pay the higher premiums rather than have your family lose the health benefit.

 

What if you stop smoking?

Being classified as a smoker when you apply for life insurance isn’t a life sentence. Your insurer may re-classify you as a nonsmoker if you’re able to kick the habit for good.

Many insurers will want you to quit tobacco for at least a year before considering you a nonsmoker. The insurance company may request another medical exam.

Don't delay life insurance until you quit smoking. It can take more than a year to kick nicotine effectively. If you wait, you may have to pay a higher rate anyway because you’re older.

 

Life insurance rates for smokers

Smoking and tobacco use can lead to much higher rates, especially if you’re middle-aged. An insurer looks at a 50-year-old smoker differently than a 30-year-old smoker. The younger person has a better chance to quit than a 50-year-old who’s smoked for 20 more years.

That’s why a 30-year-old smoker has much lower rates than a 50-year-old smoker.

Here are the average annual premiums for term life death benefits for people an insurer classifies as “Regular” health.

Average Annual Premiums for Term Life death benefit of $250,000

Health profile and term lengthAge 30Age 40Age 50Age 60
Female smoker 10-year term$448$704$1,508$3,279
Female smoker 20-year term$602$1,166$2,337$5,406
Female smoker 30-year term$910$1,634$3,669$13,030*
Male smoker 10-year term$565$885$2,003$4,492
Male smoker 20-year term$753$1,363$3,141$7,107
Male smoker 30-year term$1,164$2,131$4,460$13,030*

*Limited quotes available. Data source: Compulife Quotation System as of Jan. 2019.

As you can see, smoker rates can put a dent in your wallet. Insurers charge much more for smokers because of the risks associated with smoking. Tobacco use is the largest preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. An insurance company doesn’t want to risk an early death benefit, so it will charge you more.

 

Life insurance shopping for smokers

Getting a term life insurance policy can be a wise financial decision for your family. You can start by entering your information into our Life Insurance Advisor to see what’s best for your situation. You can also check out our Life Insurance Calculator to find how much you need.

As we mentioned earlier, insurers differ on how they classify nonsmokers and smokers. So, it’s a good idea to shop around, get quotes from multiple insurance companies and find the right policy for you.

No matter what life insurer you choose make sure you’re truthful on your application. You don’t want to lie about smoking and potentially leave your loved ones without a life insurance benefit.

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