E-cig users may be required to pay the same rates as smokers when purchasing life insurance.
Many smokers switch to e-cigarettes because they believe it’s healthier to vape than to inhale tobacco smoke. Certainly, e-cig users who previously smoked cigarettes usually feel healthier, reporting that they have a greater lung capacity and less irritated sinuses. However, the recent research on vaping is limited and the jury is still out on its health effects.
Every vape device contains some variation of the build: a coil, a battery, a tank, and the juice in the tank. Some vapes can also be enhanced by a virtually limitless array of mods and upgrades, which can increase battery power, tank capacity, and vapor quality.
Compared to cigarettes, vaping is still pretty new, and it’s mostly unregulated. That means there is relative difficulty in tracing the materials in the device – the metal used in the coil or the chemicals in the juice, for example. If your vape device or mods were made in a place with less quality control, you may 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.) Health effects aside, that’s big reason why nearly every major life insurance company classifies e-cig users as smokers for the purpose of determining their rates.
While it may yet be definitively proven that vaping is harmless, or at least less dangerous than smoking cigarettes, life insurance companies are slow to adjust their rates with the times. For now, you’ll probably higher premiums for life insurance if you vape.
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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 life insurance companies determine your premium rates. The healthier you are, and the less complicated your family medical history, the better your classification, and the lower your premium rates will be.
In order from best, or most healthy, to worst, or least healthy, the classifications are:
Every insurance company (or their underwriters) uses a similar classification system, although they may call them different things and have various subcategories within each one.
It’s possible to be a very healthy person, but still receive a less favorable classification because you use tobacco products. That’s because you’ll get a version of one of the base classifications above but with the caveat that you’re a smoker. During underwriting, you’ll be asked to take a paramedical exam, for which you may have to give a urine sample that would reveal the presence of any nicotine in your body.
The 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.”
Depending on your age, getting a smoker or tobacco classification can increase your rates by over $100 per month. The average premium for a 35-year-old male classified as Preferred Tobacco with a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy is $108.72. That same applicant would with a Preferred Non-Tobacco classification would pay just $31.72 per month.
|Rating||Monthly Premium||Annual Premium|
|Preferred Plus Non-Tobacco||$23.41||$267.50|
|Standard Plus Non-Tobacco||$40.47||$462.50|
|Standard Non-Tobacco, Table 2||$71.10||$812.50|
|Standard Non-Tobacco, Table 3||$82.03||$937.50|
|Standard Non-Tobacco, Table 4||$92.97||$1,062.50|
|Rating||Monthly Premium||Annual Premium|
|Standard Tobacco, Table 2||$206.94||$2,365.00|
|Standard Tobacco, Table 3||$240.51||$2,748.75|
|Standard Tobacco, Table 4||$274.09||$3,132.50|
If you’re concerned that your health or tobacco-usage habits are making your life insurance premiums too expensive, Policygenius can help you find a carrier that works with your coverage needs.
If you vape, almost every insurance company will charge you a higher rate to get life insurance. That’s partially due to the unfamiliarity life insurance companies have with vaping; they classify e-cigs as a tobacco device, even though e-juice doesn’t contain any tobacco. (Juice does contain nicotine, the active chemical in tobacco, but no plant matter is burned when you vape.)
The other reason is thatthe health effects of vaping are still undetermined. While e-cigarettes are probably healthier than traditional cigarettes, they simply have not been subjected to the same rigorous scientific investigation.
Because of this, you’ll likely be assessed a smoker classification, which means higher life insurance rates. 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’re nicotine-free for a specific span of time, which is usually at least 12 months but could be as long as five years, before they’ll offer you a more favorable classification.
In fact, if you started out as a vaper when you first bought your policy, but quit while your policy was in force, you may qualify for a better rate. After it’s been at least a year since you touched a “tobacco product,” talk to your insurer about your options. You may be able to go from a smoker classification to a nonsmoker classification.
Some major life insurance companies already do consider vaping to be separate from smoking tobacco; among them are MetLife (now Brighthouse) and Prudential. Under such a company’s policy, you’ll be assessed a nonsmoker classification. However, depending on the carrier’s underwriting guidelines, you still may not be eligible for the most favorable classification, Preferred Plus or its equivalent, until you fully quit nicotine.
If your life insurance company offers nonsmoker classifications for vapers, it may because it makes a distinction between cigarette smoking and any other tobacco product. Prudential, for example, offers both Nonsmoker Plus and Nonsmoker classifications to people who smoke cigars or pipes, chew tobacco, and vape, as long as you don’t also smoke cigarettes.
Brighthouse will assess you a Preferred Nonsmoker classification if you haven’t vaped in the last 24 months and your urine sample comes back negative for nicotine.
You should tell the whole truth about your nicotine usage, even if lying could result in a better rate. That’s because every life insurance company enforces what’s called a contestability period for the first two years after purchasing 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.
Even if the carrier does choose to pay out, it may reduce the amount of the death benefit by the amount you would’ve been paying in premiums had you accurately described your vaping habits. The contestability clause applies even if tobacco or nicotine isn’t what killed you.
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.