Smoker vs. Non-Smoker: What it Means for Your Life Insurance Policy

The decision to smoke not only affects an individual’s physical health, but it also influences the economic aspects of their life, especially when it comes to purchasing life insurance. Life insurance companies evaluate various elements of risk to determine the premium rates, and one of the key lifestyle choices that significantly impact your policy cost is whether you are a smoker or a non-smoker.

When it comes to life insurance policies, insurers put applicants into different classifications based on their health and lifestyle habits. Typically, these classifications range from preferred plus, preferred, standard plus to standard. Non-smokers usually fall into preferred plus or preferred categories, meaning they are charged lower premiums for their life insurance policy. This is because, from the insurer’s perspective, a non-smoker has a lower risk of early death and hence, is less likely to make a claim.

On the contrary, smokers are generally classified under standard plus or standard categories. This is because smokers pose a higher risk to insurance companies due to the health risks associated with smoking, such as cancer, heart disease, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), among others. Therefore, a smoker has to pay higher premiums for the same amount of coverage compared to a non-smoker.

To put this into perspective, a 30-year-old non-smoker might have to pay a premium of around $200-$300 annually for a 20-year term policy with a $500,000 death benefit. In contrast, a smoker of the same age and similar health otherwise might have to pay premiums upwards of $600-$800 annually for the same policy.

Insurance companies usually have stringent criteria to categorize someone as a non-smoker. Simply quitting smoking a few days or weeks before applying for a policy will not qualify you for non-smoker rates. Generally, you need to be tobacco-free for at least a year to qualify as a non-smoker. However, this period varies from company to company. Some insurance companies might even require you to be tobacco-free for as long as five years.

If you’re a smoker considering life insurance, it’s worth knowing that insurers don’t differentiate between different methods of smoking. Whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, use vaping devices or chew tobacco, you’ll still be considered a smoker. The frequency of smoking also tends to be irrelevant–even if you only smoke socially or occasionally, you’re likely to be classified as a smoker.

It’s also important to remember the consequences of not being forthcoming about your smoking habits while applying for a life insurance policy. If you do not disclose your smoking habits during the application process and it’s discovered later, your policy could be cancelled or your death benefit may be reduced.

However, being a smoker doesn’t mean you can’t get a good deal on life insurance your life insurance policy. Some ways you can lower your premiums include shopping and comparing prices from different insurance providers, maintaining a healthy lifestyle besides not smoking, or considering a term life policy instead of a permanent policy, as it is generally cheaper.

In brief, while being a smoker certainly complicates the process of obtaining affordable life insurance, it doesn’t render it impossible. With a little effort and persistence, it’s possible to find a policy that fits your budget. More importantly, it’s a worthwhile endeavor to consider quitting smoking or avoiding smoking altogether—not just for the advantage of lower life insurance premiums, but for the priceless benefit of improved health and increased longevity.