Tobacco use is an expensive habit: smoking just half a pack of cigarettes daily can cost $2500 a year based on an average cost of $14.00 per pack. But that’s not the only cost involved: tobacco use also results in lost productivity, accidental fires, and increased medical costs. It can also make it difficult to get life insurance at a reasonable rate. Read on to discover how and why using tobacco affects life insurance premiums.
For life insurance purposes, a smoker is anyone who uses products that contain nicotine. These include:
- Cigarettes, cigarillos, and cigars
- Smoking cessation products, such as nicotine patches and nicotine gum
- Chewing tobacco
- Social smoking, or smoking occasionally (any amount of tobacco use is considered smoking for life insurance purposes)
Heavy exposure to secondhand smoke may also be considered smoking for life insurance purposes. Although your insurance provider may not ask about this specifically, it could come up in your blood tests, and your premiums may be affected.
If you have an existing policy and did not self-identify as a smoker in your original application, you could have problems. The insurance company may cancel your life insurance, deny your claim, delay your claim payout, or sue you or your estate. That means that your beneficiaries might not receive the full benefit you intended for them to have. They could also charge you a premium backdated to when you first got the policy, which could be very expensive depending on how long you’ve had it.
It’s important to note that nicotine can be detected in your blood up to 48 hours after smoking, and its metabolites are detectable for up to three weeks. If your life insurance application requires medical tests, your exposure to nicotine will be evident. Honesty is the best policy when you’re applying for insurance.
Life insurance premiums are based on how much risk an individual applicant presents to the life insurance company. In the life insurance industry, the risk is the probability that the company will have to pay out the death benefit to your beneficiaries and how soon they will have to pay it out. For example, a 20-year-old applicant with no health problems who wants to purchase a 10-year life insurance policy presents a very low risk. With this applicant, the life insurance company will benefit from receiving regular premiums but never having to pay out the lump-sum death benefit. In contrast, a 50-year-old applicant with cardiovascular disease who is applying for a 30-year policy is much riskier to insure because there is a greater chance that they will pass away during the term.
Because smoking is a risk factor for many serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses, people who smoke are considered riskier to insure. Therefore their premiums for life insurance tend to be higher, all other things being equal. Getting life insurance as a smoker is not impossible, but it does require more research, and smokers can expect to pay more for their insurance.
Although this is not technically fraud, it could lead to problems. For example, if the life insurance company can show that you only quit smoking temporarily to get a lower rate on your life insurance, that could void your policy. If you pass away, and there’s strong evidence that it was due to the effects of smoking, the payout on your policy could be cancelled or delayed. At that point, you won’t be able to remedy the situation, and your beneficiaries will have to deal with the outcomes. You don’t want to leave them in this position, so contact your life insurance agent and discuss your options if you start smoking.
Quitting is a positive step for your health. A short time after you quit, the level of carbon monoxide in your blood will return to a normal level, and your heart attack risk will start to decrease. However, some aspects of your health will have been compromised by the nicotine you’ve been exposed to, and some of these effects will continue for some time. For example, it takes five years for your risk of stroke to equal that of a non-smoker and 15 years before your risk of cardiovascular disease drops to that level.
Depending on your life insurance provider, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate for your life insurance if you’ve been nicotine-free for at least 12 months. Your provider may want to know the reason you quit smoking. For example, if you stopped after having a heart attack, that will limit the reduction in your premiums. They may also want to sign a declaration about how long you’ve been a non-smoker, and they may have you take a blood or urine test to verify that there’s no nicotine in your system.
Overall, quitting is good for both your health and your wallet. To find out how it can reduce your premiums, contact your insurance advisor for the details of your provider’s policies.
Using nicotine products is expensive. It affects your health and the health of those around you, costs you and your employer in terms of productivity, and drives up your life insurance costs. At the same time, it makes it even more critical that your family be protected financially, meaning that having coverage is just as crucial for smokers as it is for non-smokers, maybe even more so.
Canada Protection Plan is pleased to offer insurance options for smokers and non-smokers alike. As one of Canada’s leading providers of No-Medical and Simplified-Issue Life Insurance, we work with clients who have pre-existing conditions daily. Our applications don’t require medical tests, blood or fluid samples, or long questionnaires, so they’re perfect for people who don’t like going through these procedures or who don’t want to have to wait while their application goes through a lengthy approval process.