Will secondhand smoke show up on my life insurance nicotine test?

Will secondhand smoke show up on my life insurance nicotine test?

There’s one question that gets asked a lot when it comes to life insurance policies: "Do life insurance companies test for nicotine?"

The answer is "yes", and that can lead to another question: "Will secondhand smoke show up?"

Both are good questions! The life insurance nicotine test is done during your medical exam to see if you’re a smoker. Why does that matter? Because of the obvious health implications of smoking. It’s the 21st century, so the side effects of smoking – cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pregnancy complications – are pretty well-known.

When a life insurer is determining how much your premiums will cost, they’ll look at things like your health history and use that information to classify you. Preferred Plus is typically the best classification, and Substandard is...well, substandard. Insurers usually have levels specifically for smokers. Say you’d normally be classified as Preferred; if you smoke, you’d be classified as Preferred Smoker as the insurer’s way of saying that although you otherwise fit the Preferred risk profile, there’s a likelihood that health issues will arise thanks to your habit.

But why test for nicotine at all? When you’re getting a quote or applying, won’t you be asked if you’re a smoker?

You sure will be. But since smoking makes you riskier to insure, the end result is that you pay more for your premiums. That price difference can end up being a few hundred dollars per year, which for some people is a great incentive to lie about their smoking habits. Life insurers can’t risk insuring someone who may develop life-threatening health conditions due to smoking without charging them more, and a nicotine test helps them double check.

Which brings us back to secondhand smoke.

There are known health effects to secondhand smoke. It’s bad for you (not as bad as actually smoking, but still) and the last thing you want is for it to be bad for your life insurance premiums, too. What if your life insurance nicotine test is skewed because of a family member or coworker?

The good news is that’s unlikely to happen.

Nicotine tests are pretty sophisticated, and it’s not a simple "yes or no" test. The tests are able to discern certain levels of nicotine, and while secondhand smoke certainly isn’t good for you, you won’t absorb the amount of nicotine that smokers or users of other tobacco products do. If a nicotine test results in a positive, it’s because that person is a recent tobacco user.

There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to smoking and life insurance. Can you get insured if you smoke marijuana? How does vaping and e-cigs affect your premiums? Things are changing quickly, so it’s natural to have questions.

But when it comes to secondhand smoke, there’s no need to worry. Someone else’s smoking habits won’t affect your ability to get affordable life insurance.