It’s no secret that smoking is unhealthy. The sooner smokers quit, the sooner they improve their chances of avoiding serious illnesses. Yet, 28 million people in the U.S. continue this habit knowing the risks, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
But smoking shouldn’t be a reason to overlook the importance of life insurance. In fact, you might be surprised to know that smoking isn’t an automatic nonstarter for policy approval.
That’s why it’s worth learning how you and your family will benefit from learning about buying life insurance for smokers.
What is life insurance?
If it seems like a simple question, you’re right. In short, life insurance offers peace of mind because you know your family and loved ones will be financially protected after you’re no longer around to support them. Costs like groceries and utilities can be covered by the policy’s death benefit, as can major expenses such as mortgages and school tuition.
How does life insurance work?
It’s not complicated. You pay a monthly or annual premium throughout the policy’s duration. If you die during that time, the policy pays a lump sum, also known as a death benefit, to your beneficiaries.
Two of the most popular types of life insurance are permanent life insurance and term life insurance policies. Term life insurance provides coverage for a fixed period, typically between 10 and 30 years. If the term expires before you die, you can continue the policy (albeit at a much higher premium) or apply for another policy. It’s typically the most affordable type of life insurance.
Permanent life insurance has no expiration unless you stop making premium payments. This type of policy accumulates also cash value that you can borrow against during your lifetime. Because of these two factors, it’s often quite a bit more expensive than term life insurance.
Either way, you’ll answer questions about your age, health, and lifestyle choices while applying for a life insurance policy. In some cases, but not all, you might be required to partake in a life insurance medical exam.
Understanding policy options helps you find the right policy for your needs and circumstances. Here’s what you need to know.
Why do smokers need life insurance?
Life is unpredictable, and you want to know that your loved ones are taken care of no matter what. Let’s examine why life insurance is a smart move for anyone, smokers or not.
If you have dependents, life insurance is worth considering. It’s a safety net that provides financial protection for your loved ones if you’re not around to do so. You pay monthly premiums over the life of a policy, in exchange for a lump sum payment to your chosen beneficiaries — typically a spouse, or adult children — in the amount of the policy.
So if you are a 30-year old woman in excellent health, and you buy a 20-year Haven Term policy worth $500,000, you might pay just over $15 a month. If you die during the term, your loved ones will get a half-million dollar lump sum payment, tax-free, that they can use for anything from groceries to rent or mortgage payments, to tuition, to burial expenses.
What should smokers know about life insurance?
Checking the “yes” box when asked if you smoke will increase the cost of a life insurance policy. The fact is that life expectancy for cigarette smokers is at least 10 years shorter than that of nonsmokers, so providers charge higher life insurance rates to account for the higher risk.
However, policies for smokers are still more cost-effective than leaving your loved ones unprotected. For example, that same 30-year old woman, purchasing that same 20-year policy worth $500,000, would pay $54.86 per month — more than $15, for sure, but still less than many people pay on streaming services every month. And certainly worth it when you consider the peace of mind that comes from knowing your family is financially protected in case the worst should come to pass.
How do insurance providers know that you smoke?
Insurance providers have various methods to verify the information you put down on an application. A medical exam, which often includes blood and urine samples, is one of those ways. Besides the medical exam, providers can verify your medical records by investigating clinic and pharmaceutical databases, past and current prescriptions, and any previous insurance or insurance applications.
Honesty is key, and lying on your application isn’t harmless. Providing false information can result in a denied claim, or the non-issuance of a policy. Even if it leads to a higher premium, telling the truth is always your best bet.
Do smokers need a medical exam for policy approval?
The type of policy you apply for determines if a medical exam is required. Many life insurance policies require a comprehensive medical examination to assess various health factors, including smoking habits. Exam results factor into determining your premium payments, as well as the death benefits you qualify for.
However, some life insurance policies forgo the medical exam. Instead, providers rely on the information you give on your application, offering a more streamlined approval process. While you might find this more convenient, remember that no-exam policies often come with higher premiums because the provider assumes additional risk by not having a full medical report. (And they require your absolute truthfulness on the application, or again you risk non-payment of the death benefit, or non-issuance of the policy.)
Let’s go back to that 30-year-old woman looking for a 20-year, $500,000 policy. As a smoker in otherwise good health, she could get a 100% no-medical exam life insurance policy from Haven Simple, for $81 per month.
Should you wait to purchase life insurance until after you quit smoking?
It’s tempting to hold off on purchasing life insurance until you quit smoking. However, most insurance providers require you to be nicotine-free for at least one year to be considered a nonsmoker and potentially get a lower premium. Twelve months is a long time to leave your family vulnerable if the unexpected happens.
If you’re a policyholder who smokes but then decides to quit, you take a significant step toward improving your health and potentially reducing your insurance premiums. Once you’ve been smoke-free for at least a year, reach out to your insurance provider to let them know about your lifestyle change. (It might take two years before you can qualify for a lower rate.)
Providers generally welcome such updates because a non-smoking policyholder represents a lower risk. However, they might require proof that you’ve genuinely quit smoking, such as the results of a new medical exam or nicotine tests.
What help is available if you want to quit smoking?
Simply wanting to quit smoking doesn’t mean it’s easy to actually do. Your body has to get used to not having nicotine in its system. Smoking is a habit, and it’s hard to break routines that have been part of your life for years. But there’s plenty of help available when you’re ready to let go of smoking.
Be proactive in quitting by making changes to your environment. You can control if cigarettes are available at home, in the car, or at work. Throw them away along with any accessories, like matches and ashtrays. Find safer substitutes when urges strike, such as straws or cinnamon sticks.
You might have to challenge your thoughts when temptations arise. It’s OK to listen to your urges but try talking back to them about why you won’t reach for a cigarette.
Some people can quit cold turkey, while others find success with medication, counseling, nicotine replacement products to reduce dependence, or any combination of these. Consulting with healthcare professionals specializing in smoking cessation provides a more personalized approach to quitting and preventing relapses. Additionally, Quitlines, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669), provide free guidance with no judgment. Trained coaches help you develop a quitting plan and provide more resources.
The consensus is that the sooner you quit smoking, the better it is for your health. It’s never too late to quit, and that’s why there are so many tips and resources available to help you stop.
See how Haven Life can help you financially protect your loved ones
Life insurance is a serious subject, but Haven Life makes securing that much-needed peace of mind easier than ever. Get a free online life insurance quote today.