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Life insurance for smokers: What's the cost?

If you are a smoker, having some life insurance is better than having none. This article discusses preferred smoker rates, when you are considered a nonsmoker, and the importance of full disclosure.

There are many things that can factor into how much you'll pay for your life insurance. And since smoking carries a number of inherent health risks, you'll generally end up paying more than someone who is a nonsmoker, and the difference can be significant.  

More than just cigarettes

As you've probably guessed, smoking isn't limited to just cigarettes, but includes cigars, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes. Even if you consider yourself an occasional smoker, some insurers may still quote you at regular smoker rates -simply because of the associated health risks with nicotine use.

Preferred smoker life insurance rates

If you're an occasional smoker, there are some insurers who may offer what is called “preferred smoker” rates. Although every insurance company has their own underwriting guidelines, qualifying for “preferred smoker” rates typically requires that you are an infrequent smoker (as indicated on your insurance application), and, only if the results of your life insurance medical exam indicate that that you're in relatively good health. This may get you a slightly lower rate, but you're more than likely still looking at paying much more for your policy than if you were a nonsmoker.

Full disclosure is the best policy

When you apply for life insurance, your application will ask you to indicate if you are a smoker. Any findings from your medical exam blood work that may indicate otherwise, could result in a denial of life insurance coverage. Even if you consider yourself a “light or social” smoker, it's important to be forthcoming when it comes to your nicotine use.

Even if you've been trying to kick the habit, keep in mind that most life insurance companies generally won't consider you for nonsmoker rates unless you have been smoke free for a specific amount of time. For this reason, it's important to disclose how long it has been since you last smoked, or if you are using any type of nicotine cessation product such as a patch or gum.

You may already understand that failure to disclose your tobacco use on your life insurance application constitutes fraud, but what happens if you take up smoking after your life insurance policy issues? The truth is, if you start smoking after your life insurance has been approved and issued, it'll be difficult for your life insurance company to discover your newfound habit in order to increase your rates to match the risk. However, if you were to die during the contestability period (a time where the insurer can investigate information on your application) and the company discovers your tobacco use, your beneficiary's claim may be denied or the death benefit could be adjusted to reflect the amount of premiums that you should have been paying all along as a smoker. That means that your beneficiaries would lose out on the full amount of your policy's benefit. 

If you've been trying to quit smoking, be sure and discuss this with your insurer. Depending on the life insurance company, you may be able to reapply for coverage at a later date if you continue to remain tobacco free and in good health.

Some is better than none

Even if you're a smoker, having some life insurance is better than having none at all. For this reason, take the time to do some comparison shopping. In doing so, you may be able to find insurers who are bit more “premium friendly” when it comes to smokers. Also, discuss how you might be able to cover your life insurance needs with a mix of different policy types. A good insurance company or agent should be able to work with you, ensuring that you have your needs covered.


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All Learning Center articles are general summaries that can be used when considering your financial future at various life stages. The information presented is for educational purposes and is meant to supplement other information specific to your situation. It is not intended as investment advice and does not necessarily represent the opinion of Protective or its subsidiaries.

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