life insurance for a smoker

Does smoking invalidate a life insurance policy in 2022?

Smoking, as you all know, is harmful to your health. However, were you mindful of its impact on the cost of your life insurance if you are a smoker? 

This is a key factor that life insurers use when underwriting your life insurance policy. 

So, in this article, we provide you with a guide that responds to the questions that smokers might have on their mind when it comes to getting the perfect life insurance plan. 

Does smoking void a life insurance policy? 

No, it doesn’t. Smoking is only going to make your life insurance policy more expensive due to the fact that your life expectancy or your health is a factor that life insurers use to determine your life insurance premium. 

In a nutshell, people who smoke have low expectancy ratio because they are more vulnerable to chronic conditions such as bronchitis, heart diseases and lung cancer. They might die faster than non-smokers. This makes them risky in the eyes of a life insurance provider. 

How do life insurance companies give the meaning of “smokers”? 

In general, life insurers would define a smoker as a person who uses nicotine or tobacco in any form, including bidis (thin hand-rolled cigarettes), chewing tobacco, cigars, dissolvable tobacco, heated tobacco products, hookahs, nicotine replacement therapies (patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nose sprays), pipes, snuff, vaping and e-cigarettes. 

Depending on the usage frequency, people who take marijuana are sometimes considered smokers. 

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that life insurance applicants experience: 

• Do you use tobacco or nicotine products? 

• Did you consume any tobacco products in the past four years? 

You will be categorized as a smoker as long as your answer to any of the above questions is yes. Although you smoke only once in a while, you will still be classified as a smoker. The life insurers would merely quote small amount of premium to people who have absolutely avoided cigarettes and nicotine products. 

How do life insurers go about discovering if you smoke or not? 

When it comes to completing a life insurance application, you need to be mindful of being honest and authentic with all your responses.  

There are many methods that life insurers use to authenticate the answers on your application form. 

One of the approaches is authentication of your blood and urine samples during your life insurance medical exam.  

Normally, these samples will disclose cotinine, which is a byproduct of nicotine, in your body system. They can identify cotinine in your hair and saliva samples. However, detecting cotinine is not infallible.  

This is because if they have not smoked in a day or two, smokers may be able to avoid being detected with nicotine. 

Here are some other alternatives that life insurers use to discover whether you use any nicotine or tobacco products or not: 

• Medical records. Requesting your medical records is a routine part of many life insurance applications. Nicotine use will likely be noted in your records. 

• Pharmaceutical databases. Life insurers often get lists of your past and current prescriptions. Nicotine use might show up here, such as a prescription for a smoking-cessation drug. 

• Past life and health insurance applications. A company called MIB stores your past answers to individual life and health applications. If your past answers are different, it would be flagged here. 

• Social media. Insurance companies are increasingly using social media sites such as Facebook to look for evidence of factors that affect rates. 

• The sound of your voice. A data analytics company, such as Verisk, provides life insurance companies with analytics that predict whether you’re a smoker from the sound of your voice, combined with other data such as demographic and socioeconomic information. When you answer life insurance application questions over the phone–a common step called a tele-interview–you could be recorded. The company can analyze these recordings and flags people who are likely to be smokers. 

What is the length of time that you need to give up smoking so you would be considered a non-smoker by a life insurer? 

Typically, if you have not been smoking for 12 months or more, you are considered a non-smoker. However, the non-smoking time length rules vary from life insurer to life insurer. 

What happens if you begin smoking after purchasing life insurance? 

As soon as you purchase a life insurance plan, a life insurer is unable to increase your life insurance premium. Therefore, as long as you begin diving or smoking later, you have no need to worry about the life insurance premium as it is already locked in.  

The same thing applies to medical conditions you have following the purchase of a life insurance policy. 

The key reason is that there is a very low probability that you will begin smoking at a later stage in life. This means lower risk for life insurers. Many studies indicate that the majority of smokes first use nicotine or tobacco products before they turn 18. 

What happens if you completely stop smoking after buying a life insurance policy? 

The good news is if you bought a life insurance policy at a smoking rate and have now quit being a smoker for a year at a minimum, there is a chance that you can get a better price.  

Keep in mind that you need to ask your life insurer about the length of time required for you to quit in order to be identified as a non-smoker. 

If you have passed the time requirement, you can ask your life insurer to reconsider the life insurance premium. If this is the case, you will need to take a new life insurance medical exam and your health will be reassessed.  

However, if you happen to develop new medical conditions during this period, these will be calculated for the new rate as well. Therefore, be mindful of staying safe and healthy at all times.