Life insurance companies are strict about nicotine levels in applicants, and that includes from chewing tobacco.
In most cases when you apply for life insurance, you’ll need to take a medical test during the underwriting process. This is like a standard physical: A technician will get your base health readings and administer a blood test and urine test. They’ll use the blood and urine sample in part to check for drug use. This includes a nicotine test, and using chewing tobacco is a red flag for insurers that can rates your rates.
Chewing tobacco will show up on a life insurance drug test. Life insurance companies test for nicotine, and chewing tobacco has a high amount of nicotine in it — "holding an average-size dip in your mouth for 30 minutes gives you as much nicotine as smoking three cigarettes," according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
If you’re a user of any kind of tobacco product — cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, or even smoking cessation products that contain nicotine — and you’re shopping for life insurance, you may have seen in your research that life insurance companies split their health categories into two major groups: smoker and non-smoker.
Because of the research around tobacco products showing their effect on mortality rates, being classified as a smoker can raise your rates to anywhere between two and four times more expensive than a comparable non-smoker.
However, just because you're being categorized as asmoker doesn't mean the rest of your medical profile is not taken into account. Just like with non-smokers, smokers have multiple health classifications that affect final rates. You'll still end up paying more because you're categorized as a smoker, but your rates could still be very affordable.
Note: If you use marijuana instead of tobacco, there are other considerations to be taken into account. Learn more about applying for life insurance as a marijuana user.
Some life insurance companies may be more lenient and categorize you as a non-smoker if you are only an occasional user of tobacco products (i.e., a celebratory cigar every six months). Every life insurance company will ask you how frequently you use tobacco products.
Whether or not non-smoking products classifies you as a smoker depends on the individual company. One may be fine with limited cigar use as long as you don’t use chewing tobacco; another might consider a Standard non-smoker rating for people who use chewing tobacco or cessation products; another might rate you non-smoker but at one classification level lower than you would have been otherwise.
For more information on finding a life insurance company as a former tobacco user see our list of the best companies for former smokers.
You may be tempted to fib when they ask in order to get a lower life insurance rate, but you shouldn’t.
If you’re a user of chewing tobacco and you want to buy life insurance, your best bet is to disclose your use of chewing tobacco and use an independent agent or broker. An independent broker like Policygenius can help you compare a variety of life insurance quotes and help you find the cheapest policy for your specific medical profile.
Your life insurance company reserves to the right to rescind a policy in the first two years if they believe that fraud was committed during the application process. That includes not being fully forthright about using chewing tobacco or how often you use chewing tobacco.
This two year period is called the contestability period. Your life insurance company also reserves the right to start a new contestability period if you pay your premium late.
While it’s rare that life insurance companies investigate claims or deny benefits, it does happen. The best advice is to play it safe – life insurance is, after all, a product designed to mitigate risk.
Being labeled as a smoker doesn’t mean that your life insurance policy needs to be prohibitively expensive. An independent agent can help you find the right policy for you and your family at the right price.
Disclaimer: Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.