Can you get life insurance if you use chewing tobacco?

You’ll qualify for life insurance if you use chewing tobacco, but you’ll likely pay higher rates. A few insurers may be more flexible toward smokeless tobacco use.

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Andrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Edited by

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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When you apply for life insurance, you usually need to take a medical exam during the underwriting process. This is like a standard physical: A technician will get your base health readings and administer a blood test, urine test, and sometimes a mouth swab, which includes nicotine testing.

Chewing tobacco can appear on a nicotine test for days or weeks after your last use, depending on how often you use tobacco and how your body metabolizes it. As a tobacco user, youll pay two to three times more for your policy than a non-smoker. However, some insurers are more flexible if you use smokeless tobacco.

Life insurance terms you should know
  • Beneficiaries: The people you name on your life insurance policy to receive the lump sum of money — also known as the death benefit — when you die.

  • Cash value: The portion of a permanent life insurance policy’s monetary value that grows tax-deferred over the life of the policy.

  • Death benefit: The amount of money the life insurance company will pay your beneficiaries when you die.

  • Face amount: The dollar amount, or death benefit, your beneficiaries receive if you die while your life insurance policy is active.

  • Insured: The person who is covered by the insurance policy.

  • Policy: The legal document that includes the terms and conditions of your life insurance contract.

  • Policyholder: The person who owns an insurance policy. Usually, this is the same person as the insured.

  • Permanent life insurance: A type of life insurance that lasts for the rest of your life and usually includes a cash value account.

  • Premium: The amount you pay your insurance company to keep your coverage active. Premiums are typically paid monthly or annually.

  • Riders: Add-ons to a life insurance policy that provide more robust coverage, sometimes for an extra cost.

  • Term life insurance: A life insurance policy that lasts for a set number of years before it expires. If you die before the term is up, your beneficiaries receive a death benefit.

  • Underwriting: The process where an insurance company evaluates the risk of insuring you and determines your final rate.

How chewing tobacco affects your life insurance

Life insurance companies split their health classifications into two major groups: smoker and non-smoker. Every insurer will ask how frequently you use tobacco and what you use, but some providers are more flexible about categorizing you as a non-smoker if you only occasionally use tobacco products (e.g., a celebratory cigar every six months).

If you test positive for nicotine and cotinine (what nicotine metabolizes into in the body), you’ll be categorized as a smoker and charged accordingly.

Health classifications, explained
  • Preferred Plus offers the most affordable premiums. It’s usually assigned to people who have no or one well-controlled or resolved minor health condition and no family history of conditions like heart disease or cancer.

  • Preferred offers the second-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people with one or two well-controlled or resolved minor conditions and no family history of conditions like heart disease or cancer.

  • Standard Plus offers the third-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people who may have well-controlled or resolved mild-to-moderate conditions and who may have one death from heart disease or cancer in their immediate family.

  • Standard offers the fourth-lowest premiums. It’s usually assigned to people with well-controlled or resolved moderate health conditions and who may have more than one immediate family member who died of heart disease or cancer.

  • Table Ratings are assigned to applicants with more serious health conditions and are divided into 10 sub ratings — table 1 has the lowest premiums and table 10 the highest.

  • Tobacco/Smoker ratings are assigned to people who currently use tobacco or nicotine products or have in the past 12 months. These ratings can also be applied to frequent marijuana users. There are usually three categories for people in this rating: Preferred, Standard, and Table Ratings.

Chewing tobacco & your life insurance costs

A smoker classification doesn’t mean the rest of your medical profile is ignored. Just like non-smokers, insurers apply multiple health classifications to smokers that will affect your final rates. You’ll pay more than a non-tobacco user, but you can still find affordable coverage if you have few health issues or risky hobbies.

It’s important to be honest about your chewing tobacco habit, even if it means paying more for your insurance. The medical exam can reveal if you lied about your use, and even if you manage to get a false non-smoker classification, your insurer can cancel your policy or deny your loved ones the death benefit if they find out that you lied later.

Ready for shop for life insurance for smokers?

Applying for life insurance as a chewing tobacco user

If you use chewing tobacco and you want to buy life insurance, your application process won’t differ much from any other applicant’s. Your best bet is to disclose your use and work with an independent agent or broker.

An independent broker can help you compare a variety of life insurance quotes and help you find the best policy for your specific medical profile.

Learn more about how to buy life insurance

The best life insurers for chewing tobacco users

Like many factors in life insurance, every insurer has its own way of evaluating the risks of insuring a tobacco user. Most insurers classify chewing tobacco users as smokers, but some will allow you to purchase coverage at non-smoker rates.

Remember that your overall health will influence your final premium in addition to your smoker or non-smoker status.

Review all our best life insurance companies for smokers

Life insurance for former chewing tobacco users

If a life insurance company includes chewing tobacco in their definition of nicotine use, you won’t be eligible for non-smoker premiums until you’ve been nicotine-free for a sustained period.

After you’ve been tobacco-free for 12 months or more you can apply for reconsideration or start shopping for a replacement policy. Do your research to find a life insurance company with friendly policies for former tobacco users.

Learn more about how life insurance works

Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance

Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.

Author

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

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