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Life insurance rates for vapers

Most providers consider vaping the same as smoking for life insurance purposes, with a couple of exceptions. Find out how vaping affects your premiums.

Amanda Shih author photoPat Hanzel

Amanda Shih & Patrick Hanzel

Published July 31, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Vapers usually receive the same rates and health classifications as smokers

  • Smokers pay two to four times more for life insurance than nonsmokers

  • Some insurers may consider nonsmoker rates if your e-juice is nicotine- and cannabis-free

  • Lying about your vape use can cause an insurer to deny coverage or cancel your policy

Many smokers switch to e-cigarettes because they believe it’s healthier to vape than to inhale tobacco smoke. E-cig users who previously smoked cigarettes may feel healthier, reporting that they have a greater lung capacity and less irritated sinuses. However, recent research on vaping is limited and the jury is still out on its health effects.

Compared to cigarettes, vaping is still pretty new, and it’s mostly unregulated. But there are still harmful chemicals in your device that can have negative side effects for your health — the metal used in the coil or the chemicals in the juice, for example. Or if your vape device or its modifications were made in a place with less quality control, you could be inhaling harmful substances. (When you inhale from a vape, the battery heats the coil, which atomizes the e-juice, and this can create undesirable byproducts.)

Because of the lack of regulations and the health effects, most major life insurance companies consider vaping the same as smoking when determining your rates. However, a few insurers might offer nonsmoker rates if you vape a nicotine- or cannabis-free product, like a flavored 0% nicotine e-juice.

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Is vaping considered smoking for insurance purposes?

If you vape, almost every major insurer will view you as a smoker. That’s partially due to the lack of familiarity life insurance companies have with vaping; most of them classify e-cigs as a tobacco device, even though e-juice doesn’t contain any tobacco. Juice does contain nicotine, which providers test for during the life insurance medical exam, but no plant matter is burned when you vape.

Also, the health effects of vaping are still undetermined. While e-cigarettes may be healthier than traditional cigarettes, they have not been subject to the same rigorous scientific investigation. What insurers do know about vaping doesn't make the case for lower premiums.

"Life insurance companies are very risk-averse. If there is a particular area in the medical field with a lot of uncertainty, most will err on the side of caution,” Patrick Hanzel, Policygenius’ Advanced Planning Specialist and Certified Financial Planner explains. “On top of that, they also want to make sure they protect their current policyholders.”

Most life insurers will classify you as a smoker, which translates to a higher premium. In order to avoid this classification and keep your rates low, you should quit vaping long before you apply for life insurance. Most insurers want to see that you haven’t vaped nicotine or marijuana for a specific span of time — usually 12 months but potentially as long as five years — before they’ll offer you a more favorable classification.

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What is my life insurance classification?

When you apply for life insurance, you go through a process called underwriting, during which you’ll be assigned an insurance classification. Life insurance classifications are how insurers determine your premiums. The healthier you are and the less complicated your family medical history, the better your classification and the lower your premiums will be.

In order from best, or most healthy, to worst, or least healthy, the classifications are:

  • Preferred Plus
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard
  • Substandard

Substandard classifications are also called table ratings, which are numbered or lettered (e.g. Table B, Table 4).

To determine your health classification, you’ll be asked to take a medical exam, for which you may have to give a urine or blood sample that would reveal the presence of any nicotine or THC in your body. Your results could be positive up to a month after your last use of a substance.

quote

Life insurance companies are very risk-averse. So when it comes to vaping and other areas of uncertainty, they'll err on the side of caution.

- Patrick Hanzel, Advanced Planning Specialist and Certified Financial Planner

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How vaping affects your life insurance rates

It’s possible to be a very healthy person but still receive a less favorable health classification because you vape. You’ll be given one of the base classifications above, but with the caveat that you’re a smoker.

Your classification will be called something like “Preferred Smoker” or “Preferred Tobacco” as opposed to the “Preferred Nonsmoker” classification you’d get otherwise. Some classifications are off-limits to nicotine users altogether: There’s no such thing as Preferred Plus Tobacco.

Getting a smoker or tobacco classification can increase your premiums by two to four times. The average monthly premium for a 35-year-old male classified as Preferred Tobacco with a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy is $98.33. That same applicant with a Preferred Non-Tobacco classification would pay just $30.67 per month.

For the same policy, a 35-year-old female would be charged an average monthly premium of $82 if classified as Preferred Tobacco and only $25.68 if classified as Preferred Non-Tobacco.

Average premiums, $500,000/20-year term policy, for a 35-year-old nonsmoker

RATING MONTHLY PREMIUMANNUAL PREMIUM
Preferred Plus Non-TobaccoMale$23.47$274.04
Female$20.31$218.22
Preferred Non-TobaccoMale$30.67$337.39
Female$25.68$296.11
Standard Plus Non-TobaccoMale$40.40$471.53
Female$35.00$407.77
Standard Non-TobaccoMale$45.17$527.87
Female$38.98$454.09
Table 2, Non-TobaccoMale$63.32$739.29
Female$54.66$636.52
Table 3, Non-TobaccoMale$71.94$840.62
Female$62.65$729.28
Table 4, Non-TobaccoMale$81.33$950.31
Female$71.04$827.27

Average premiums, $500,000/20-year term policy, for a 35-year-old smoker

RATING MONTHLY PREMIUMANNUAL PREMIUM
Preferred TobaccoMale$98.33$1,147.07
Female$82.00$956.92
Standard TobaccoMale$129.39$1,508.81
Female$101.06$1,178.72
Table 2, TobaccoMale$190.79$2,230.03
Female$148.50$1,731.93
Table 3, TobaccoMale$221.17$2,578.76
Female$171.82$2,003.83
Table 4, TobaccoMale$251.66$2,940.94
Female$196.06$2,286.31

Methodology: quotes based on policies offered by Policygenius in 2020.

However, some insurers are adapting. If you don’t vape a nicotine or marijuana product, then you may be eligible for nonsmoker rates with a few insurers. An independent insurance agent or broker can help you compare quotes to find an affordable policy that works with your coverage needs.

Should I lie about my nicotine use?

Tell the whole truth about your nicotine usage, even if lying could result in a better rate. Every life insurance company enforces a contestability period for the first two years after you purchase a policy. If you misrepresent your nicotine usage, and you die during the contestability period, the life insurance company may refuse to pay the death benefit owed to your beneficiaries, leaving them without financial protection. Many policies also include language that allows insurers to deny the death benefit due to lies on your application even if you die after the contestability period ends.

If the insurer does choose to pay out, it may reduce the death benefit payout by the amount you would’ve paid in premiums had you accurately described your vaping habits. The penalties for lying apply even if tobacco or nicotine isn’t what killed you.

About the authors

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked in nonfiction book publishing and freelance content marketing. Amanda has a B.A. in literature and communication from New York University.

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ & Advanced Planning Specialist

Patrick Hanzel

CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ & Advanced Planning Specialist

Patrick Hanzel is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ on the advanced planning team at Policygenius. He has eight years of industry experience and previously worked as an advisor and associate at Northwestern Mutual. He has a degree in Business Administration from Nebraska Wesleyan University, where he was also a member of the golf team.

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.

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