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A short guide to life insurance for smokers

It might seem harsh, but lying about being a smoker is insurance fraud and that is not something taken lightly.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 4, 2011 10:57AM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.


Both my mom and her mom were smokers. My mom still is. My grandmother stopped smoking when we used her failing memory to trick her into thinking she had quit smoking years ago. Not exactly the proudest moment in my life, but it got the job done. I plan to use the same strategy with my mom in about 10 years. (Mom, if you're reading this, just kidding -- NOT.)


And that brings me to the cost of life insurance for smokers.


It's no surprise that smokers pay more for life insurance, all other things being equal. If your insurance company labels you as a smoker, they place you in the smoker risk category, which means your premium will be higher than it is for nonsmokers. It's a sobering reality, but the mortality rate for smokers is much higher than it is for those who don't smoke.

With that being said, insurers assess each case individually. Below I've put together some common questions and answers that you may find helpful if you smoke (or were a smoker) and are looking for life insurance.


How life insurance companies define smokers

Companies use very specific questions to classify you as a smoker or not. Being defined as a smoker refers to your use of cigarettes, cigars and chewing tobacco. Even using a nicotine patch or gum can qualify you as a smoker. That may seem counterintuitive, but the insurance companies are looking for any form of nicotine use.

A common question on an application is: "Have you used a tobacco product in the last 12 months?" If you answer "yes" to this question, you will most likely be considered a smoker and be expected to pay a higher rate. Insurance companies generally don't differentiate between an occasional smoker or a pack-a-day smoker. In the eyes of the insurance companies, the health risks are basically the same and often so are the rates, all other things being equal.


Of course, if you smoke a pack a day, you may have resulting health issues (e.g., high blood pressure) that can also increase your rates as compared with a nonsmoker or occasional smoker. Life insurance companies will classify your health into one of several categories. While these categories vary from one insurance company to another, classifications can include:

  • Preferred Plus
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard

A smoker and nonsmoker may be classified as Preferred, for example, based on their age and medical condition. But the smoker will pay considerably more in premiums.


What about the occasional cigar?

If you fire up a cigar every now and again on the golf course, do you fall into the smoker category? The short answer appears to be no if you are an occasional cigar smoker who reports lighting up a few times a year for a celebration. But keep in mind that life insurance companies vary in their underwriting standards, so you could get a different classification from one company to the next.


How much will smoking raise your premiums?

The big question is just how much smoking will cost you. And this is where shopping for multiple life insurance quotes is critical. You will find significant variance among insurance companies.


Exactly how much more a smoker will pay depends on a host of factors, including the type and amount of life insurance, your age, and your health. Jeff Rose over at Good Financial Cents has a nice article showing the cost of life insurance for smokers is almost four times more than for nonsmokers.


What happens if you lie about smoking and get caught?

It might seem harsh, but lying about being a smoker is insurance fraud and that is not something taken lightly. There can be severe consequences for lying. Take this scenario for example: You pass your medical exam and secure an insurance policy as being a nonsmoker. If you die and the insurance company learns that you were a regular smoker, the life insurance claim could be denied.


And if you refuse a policy because you were offered smoker rates and then you apply at a different company, they too can view your medical records on file. Your medical exam results are kept for seven years in a database operated by the MIB Group.


Your best bet is to tell the truth from the beginning and just accept the fact that if you smoke you will have to pay more for your policy. If you report you are a smoker and then down the road you quit smoking, you could get reclassified and have your rate reduced. Different insurance companies often have different rules in regard to how long you have to be smoke-free, but 12 months is a good rule of thumb.


More from The Dough Roller and MSN Money:

May 6, 2013 2:08PM
While quitting is the best way to get away from the high rates we have had great luck getting our family members good rates on smokers life insurance by shopping a ton of different companies.  We were shocked at how close we could get to regular rates using this strategy.  We learned about it at 
Feb 14, 2014 12:50AM
I guess as a smoker, you just gotta get life insurance from the right place.  Remember that all states guarantee your benefits, so the price should be your number one concern always. To find the best prices, u just have to look around.  
I'm a smoker of 15 years. I found a 20 year term policy ($2 million benefit) for just $65/month from LifeAnt.
Like I said, you just gotta shop around.  Other people pay $100+ and I pay $65.
Mar 27, 2014 7:21AM
An important point that I would add to this is if you are a smoker and quit, you can be given a normal rating and pay less than a third of what you pay as a smoker.  I have a policy from LifeAnt  (was a good deal to begin with) that I did this with and it cut my bill way down.  It was a good incentive for me to stop as well (not that I needed more) but anyone who smokes knows that the more reasons you can tell yourself to quit the easier it is.  I got the life insurance to protect my kids if I'm gone, but I really don't want to have to use it.
Apr 8, 2013 3:07PM
A short guide to life insurance for smokers- MSN Money : Try this site where you can comapre quotes from different companies:
Jun 11, 2012 12:18PM
I tell people the best way to quit- isn't really to literally quit, but to make a SWITCH with an alternative to take its place! There is only one real thing that will allow you to do this: Modified Electronic Cigarettes....not the disposable kind but the rechargeable, quality kind that can be found at These devices deliver nicotine through flavored vapor/steam and allow you to rid your life of smoke. My wife smoked 22 years, and hasn't picked up a cigarette in 2 years thanks to modified electronic cigarettes. It has saved us 90% compared to cigarettes and even her teeth look whiter, she can smell things she wasn't able to smell in years, this is real.
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