Do life insurance companies test for nicotine?
You bet they do.
But what if you aren’t technically smoking?
We’ve seen how nicotine tests (and life insurance premiums) are affected by secondhand smoke and chewing tobacco. But smoking cessation products – things that help you quit, like nicotine patches or nicotine gum – also have nicotine in them.
In fact, smoking cessation products have enough nicotine that they’ll show up on nicotine tests. And that could have big impacts on your life insurance premiums.
Smoking, and all of the negative health effects that come with it, will put you into a life insurance classification that raises your premium rates significantly compared to a similar-but-non-smoking candidate. When you’re applying to life insurance, you’ll be asked if you smoke, and you shouldn’t lie about it.
Why? Because lying is wrong, that’s why. Oh, and also because it can result in your death benefits not being paid out.
The first two years after your policy goes in-force are known as the contestability period. If an insurer suspects that you lied about about something on your application that affects their ability to insure you – for example, saying you don’t smoke when you actually do – they can cancel your policy. And in the event of your death, the best case scenario is delaying the payment of the death benefit while they investigate, and the worst case scenario is not paying out at all if your death is deemed tobacco-related.
To keep people from lying, you’ll be subject to a nicotine test during your medical test. If you test positive, you’ll be classified as a smoker, and your rates will go up. It’s that simple.
So even though smoking cessation products ostensibly help you quit smoking, they still fall under the category of tobacco use. Some insurers are more lenient than others; Prudential, for instance, will give special consideration to smoking cessation products provided there isn’t any other cigarette use involved. MetLife, on the other hand, includes cigarette smoking and nicotine substitutes (e-cigs, nicotine patch, and other smoking cessation products) under the same guidelines and classifies users accordingly. When you’re deciding on which insurer is best for you, consider how they consider non-cigarette nicotine products.
So what’s your best bet?
Well, kicking the habit entirely is a guaranteed way of getting put into a regular, non-smoker classification. Smoking cessation products can help do that, so even if they’ll show on nicotine tests and bump up your premium they can help you quit in the long run, lowering premiums if you decide to apply (or reapply) in the future. After the first year of your policy, some insurers will allow you to get re-tested. The results of your first exam will still be on record, but if you can show no nicotine in your system, you may be able to get a better rating – and therefore a lower premium – from your insurer.
Using an independent agent can help you get a policy that works for you. They won’t be beholden to a single carrier and will allow you to shop around and find some of those more lenient carriers we spoke about earlier.
Whether or not you decide to apply for life insurance now or wait until you’re completely clean, just remember to be honest about your smoking habits. It’ll save you – and your beneficiaries – a headache to be upfront instead of running into problems down the line.