These days, it’s hard to claim you don’t know that smoking is bad for your health. Gone is the time when cigarettes were advertised in episodes of The Flintstones.
But even if you’ve quit smoking, it can have longer-lasting effects on your health – and your life insurance rates. Quitting smoking doesn’t automatically mean lower life insurance premiums. However, there are some companies that are better for former smokers than others and are more willing to offer affordable rates.
Read on to learn more about the best life insurance companies for former smokers, and what you should know about your former tobacco use.
The best life insurance companies for ex-smokers
When you apply for life insurance, you’ll be asked a few things about yourself. One of those questions will be if you have ever used tobacco products. You should tell the truth here. If you don’t, best-case scenario is your final life insurance premiums are higher than the final rate; worst -case scenario is the insurer finds out and cancels your policy.
If that feels like a lot of pressure, don’t worry – the life insurance company won’t rely solely on your ability to tell the truth. During the underwriting process, when the insurer is deciding how risky you are to insure and what your premiums will be, you’ll usually undergo a medical exam. You’ll give blood and urine samples, and they can be used to determine if there are any signs of nicotine in your system.
After the underwriting process is complete, you’ll be ranked, typically on a scale from Preferred Plus to Substandard. But insurers have special Smoker rates, too. If you’re ranked as "Preferred Smoker," you likely would have qualified for a Preferred status if not for your smoking habits. Smoker ratings will always cost more than their "normal" counterparts. We’ll go into some details in a bit, but long story short, you’ll save money on your life insurance if you don’t smoke.
Here’s how our underwriting experts rank the best life insurance companies for former smokers are, in terms of the rates they offer and how flexible they are in working with applicants who are former smokers:
The best life insurance companies for former smokers
|Life insurance company||Ranking|
|Mutual of Omaha||Fair|
Tips for people who have quit smoking
If you smoke, you’ll get a Smoker rating. But what if you’ve already quit by the time you apply for life insurance?
The amount you smoked affects your rates more than how long you were a smoker. Insurers typically don’t worry about things like an offhand celebratory cigar, but if you used to smoke several packs a day, that will have an impact on your rates.
It also matters when you quit smoking. Non-Smoker rates typically won’t be available to former smokers for the first year after quitting; you usually won’t be eligible for Preferred or Preferred Plus ratings until two to five years after you quit. That’s why quitting cold turkey right before your application might be good for your health, but it won’t help you get better rates.
Other nicotine products
Smoking isn’t the only way nicotine can find its way into your bloodstream. Here’s what you should know about other tobacco products.
Chewing tobacco: Chewing tobacco use is considered the same as smoking. You’d still be classified as a Smoker even though you’re not technically smoking.
Smoking cessation products: Products like nicotine gum and the patch can help people quit smoking, but some insurers will consider them tobacco use. If the this is a block in your life insurance shopping journey, an independent broker can shop your policy around to find a carrier that will work with you (for instance, Prudential is particularly flexible when it comes to smoking cessation products).
Secondhand smoke: The amount of nicotine absorbed from secondhand smoke isn’t enough to trick a blood test. You shouldn’t worry about this.
E-cigs: Electronic cigarettes are still an unknown in many ways. As far as many life insurance carriers are concerned, though, e-cigs are in the same category as traditional tobacco products and will rate users the same as analog cigarette smokers (at least for now).
What marijuana smokers need to know
Finally, a note for those who smoke...just not tobacco.
Marijuana is a tricky subject, and not only because of its current grey legal status. Marijuana use is looked at on a case-by-case basis, and factors like frequency of use are taken into account, but it’s often lumped in with tobacco use. Also, contrary to what you might think, medicinal marijuana use can actually raise your rates more than recreational use depending on the underlying medical condition that it’s treating. Learn more about the best life insurance companies for marijuana users here.
The most important thing for former smokers to remember is to not lie about tobacco use on your life insurance application. Even if you don’t get the rates you want, some companies will let you retake your medical exam to get better rates after a couple of years. But now that you know what insurers are looking for, you can work with your agent to find the best insurance company for you.
Wondering how major providers rate overall? Check out our roundup of the best insurance companies of 2017. You’ll find solid tips for shopping around for policies, too.