How Does Tobacco Use Affect Your Life Insurance Rates?

 If you are looking for the most affordable over 50 life insurance policy you can with a history of tobacco use then keep on reading.  

Well, here’s the question.  How does tobacco use affect the amount you will have to pay for life insurance?

The short answer…it depends. 

It will depend upon what type of tobacco product you use.  If you are no longer using it then it will depend upon when you quit.  

It will also depend upon which insurance company you apply with.  This is because every insurance company has different underwriting guidelines.

One insurance company may offer you a non tobacco rating.  However, another insurance company will offer a tobacco rating. 

You can be approved with a preferred rating with one insurance company.  Then with another company a standard rating may be the best you can qualify for. 

What???  How is this possible?  I will answer these questions and more in this article.

When obtaining life insurance for smokers after age 50 or for other tobacco users it’s important to understand what type of tobacco product you use.  

As you know there are various types of tobacco products. 

Let’s talk about cigarettes first.  Then we will get into the other forms of tobacco.  

Cigarette Smoking

If you currently smoke cigarettes, or have smoked cigarettes within the past 12 months, you will qualify as a tobacco user with every insurance company that I am aware of.

However, what if you have not smoked any cigarettes in more than 1 year? 

Then you can be approved with a non tobacco rating with most companies. Some companies make you wait 2 years before they will approve you with a non tobacco rating.

So if you quit smoking cigarettes a year ago, can you qualify for the BEST non tobacco rates an insurance company offers?  Typically not.  

For instance, let’s say you quit smoking cigarettes three and a half years ago.  You could be approved for preferred best rates with 2 of the companies on the list but not with the others.

The other companies that are listed in the chart below would require you to have quit smoking over 5 years ago to possibly qualify for the best rate.

This chart shows the shows the underwriting guidelines for cigarette use with some of the top over 50 life insurance companies.

Preferred BestPreferredStandard PlusStandard
Company A 5 years 3 years1 year1 year
Company B5 years3 years2 years1 year
Company C3 years2 years1 year 1 year
Company D3 years2 years1 year1 year
Company E5 years2 yearsN/A1 year
Company F5 years3 years1 year1 year
Company G5 years3 years2 years1 year

So what does that mean in terms of what you have to pay?  Here are some sample rates based upon a woman looking for $250,000 of coverage.

$250,000 Sample Rates

Preferred Best - Non SmokerPreferred - Non SmokerStandard Plus - Non SmokerStandard - Non SmokerPreferred - SmokerStandard - Smoker
Age 50 - 10 year term$22$26$33$38$80$108
Age 55 - 20 year term$53$59$77$91$193$239

As you can see smoker rates cost a lot more than non smoker rates especially once you get into your 50’s.  The difference is even greater once you get into your 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

If you are looking for the best life insurance over age 50 and you are thinking about quitting smoking, perhaps this cost savings is the incentive you need to quit.

If you currently smoke and can’t quite afford the coverage you need you may consider buying a shorter term policy.  For example, you may consider a 10 or 15 year term instead of a 20 or 30 year term to keep costs down.

I’ve helped many people in their fifties with this type of situation.

Let’s say you need coverage for 20 years or perhaps even longer.  However, the premium just isn’t affordable.

Instead, you may want to buy a 10 year term policy today to keep the costs down.

Then, if you quit smoking you could reapply for the 20 year term that you actually need.   Remember, as long as you have quit smoking for at least 12 months, then you could qualify for non tobacco rates.

Now let’s look at how insurance companies view cigar use.

Cigar Smoking

Let’s assume that you have not smoked cigarettes in more than a year and the only form of tobacco that you use are cigars.  Then it is possible to qualify for non smoker rates.

However, again every insurance company has different underwriting guidelines and they also change from time to time.

It’s important to work with an independent agent that knows which company will look at your application most favorably.  This will help ensure that you qualify for the best possible rate.

For instance, you could be approved preferred best even if you smoke up to 6 celebratory cigars a year.  But if you smoke 7 or more you are looking at tobacco rates where the cost would be significantly higher.

However, with another company you could smoke 1 cigar a week and still qualify for their preferred best rating.

This is just one example of why it is so important to work with an independent agent that is well versed in the life insurance market place.  As you saw in the chart above there is a big cost difference between tobacco and non tobacco ratings.

Chewing Tobacco And Nicotine Gum

If you currently use chewing tobacco or nicotine gum, almost all insurance companies will approve your application with tobacco rates.

However, there are 2 companies that we know of where you can qualify for non tobacco rates. The only exception to this is if you have smoked any cigarettes in the last 12 months then this would not apply.

With one company you could qualify for their standard plus non tobacco rating.  With the the other company you could qualify for their standard non tobacco rating.

Take a look at the chart above.

The cost savings as you can see between tobacco rates and non tobacco rates is significant!

Electronic Cigarettes

It is possible to get life insurance with non smoker rates with at least one company that we know of even if you currently use electronic cigarettes.  In fact, it is possible to qualify for their standard plus non smoker rating.

With every other insurance company we know of, if you use electronic cigarettes you will only be approved as a tobacco user.

The reaction some people have is that this must be a small company that is not financially secure since they are willing to offer non tobacco rates. However, that is not the case at all.

This company is actually quite well known, has very high financial ratings and is one of the largest insurance companies.

Qualifying for Over 50 Life Insurance

We cannot stress enough the importance of working with an independent agent that knows how the underwriting guidelines vary from company to company.

Most people aren’t even aware of how important it is to apply with the company that is going to look at your application most favorably.

Case Study – 57 Year Old Man.  10 Year Term For $1,000,000

Recently I helped a 57 year old man.  He had bought a 10 year term policy for $1,000,000 3 years ago, and was paying about $480 a month.

He was hesitant to think that I could find coverage for him that would lower his monthly premium cost since he had bought his policy 3 years ago.

All else being equal the younger you are when you buy life insurance the less you’ll have to pay for the policy.

Not only that, but in the last couple of years he had begun taking medication for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

However, both his blood pressure and cholesterol were well under control and he only needed to take one medication for each.  If these were the only issues I knew that a preferred best rating would be possible.

He mentioned that he was approved for a preferred tobacco rating on his current policy.  However, he was not a cigarette smoker.  The only form of tobacco that he used was chewing tobacco, and occasionally he would have a cigar.

He was not aware that he could have qualified for non smoker rates based upon his tobacco usage.

I was able to get him approved with a non tobacco rating for a new 10 year term policy for $1,000,000.  The monthly premium was only $263 a month.  This is a savings of over $200 a month!

Also, since he had his 10 year term policy for 3 years already, it only had 7 years left until the end of the level term period.  So not only was he able to save himself a lot of money each month, but he was also able extend his coverage another for another 3 years.

Other Factors

As I have explained when you are looking for the best over 50 life insurance policy you can get you need to understand that every insurance company has different underwriting guidelines.  This is not just true for tobacco.

Tobacco use is only one factor that determines what life insurance rates you can qualify for.  Your overall medical history, driving record, and other lifestyle habits all come into play.

For instance maybe you have a few extra pounds on you.  Well, every company has different build charts.

With one company you may be able to qualify for a standard rating.  However, with another you may be able to qualify for their preferred rating.

We aim to get you the cheapest life insurance coverage you can qualify for.  Therefore, make sure that you are as an open and honest as you can possibly be with us.

This will help ensure that are submitting your application to the company that will look at your application most favorably.  And as a result you can get affordable life insurance coverage that your family needs.

If you are looking for life insurance over 50 years of age I am here to help.    I can answer any questions you have and can help you get the coverage you need.