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Smoking and term life insurance eligibility
Find out how smoking impacts your rates

A common question from people applying for term life insurance is how smoking will affect their rates.  Smoking is such a concern that it's typically listed right in the quoting tool.  Let's look a little closer at how smoking will affect the outcome of your term life enrollment.

Why is smoking considered when applying for life insurance

Smoking has a very significant effect on your term life rates for good reason.  Life insurance is primarily concerned with mortality rates and risk.  Smoking has been shown to directly correlate to this risk...especially over the long term which usually falls under the range that term life insurance handles.  According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), smoking claims 430,000 lives in the U.S.   Compare this to 41,000 for automobile accidents, 19,000 for homicides, and 17,000 for AIDS.  Approximately 3 million people have died prematurely since 1980 due to smoking.  This is the type of information that most interests a life insurance company since its decision are based on mortality risk.  There are also the other diseases associated with smoking that impact mortality risk such as heart disease, cancer, and cardio-vascular disease. 

The net effect to this risk is that your rates will likely be higher for term life insurance due to smoking and/or tobacco use.

Are there differences between types of Tobacco use?

Yes and no.  Depending on the carrier, they might differentiate between smoking, chewing tobacco, and even cigar smoking.  It partially depends on years of use, how often used, and other health factors.  Conservatively, it's best to expect a higher rate when applying for coverage when you use any tobacco products.  You want to plan your life insurance budget based on conservative information so you allow for enough coverage.

Can stopping tobacco use help?

It might.  Each carrier will have different guidelines regarding how long you smoked and how long ago it has been since you stopped.  As a rule of thumb, a past smoker who has not smoked in 5+ years might qualify for a Preferred Plus tier.  2-3 years would likely be Preferred and finally, if you have not smoked in the last 12 months, the Standard rating might be an option.  So not only is cessation good for your health, it can benefit you financially.  The simple explanation for this is that mortality risks decline if you stop smoking and continue down the longer your stay away from smoking.  You can ask a life insurance carrier to re-evaluate your rates after a period of not smoking. 

Honesty about smoking on the term life insurance application. 

It's critical to be honest on your application regarding smoking history.  The money you save on premium won't mean much if your policy is jeopardized later on...especially if the unforeseen happens and if you have no benefits paid out.  The smarter approach is to list your accurate smoking history and then aggressively work to stop smoking with the intent of re-evaluating your rates and/or applying again at a better term life health class soon after the first policy goes into effect.  Lying on a term life application is fraud and it defeats the purpose of getting coverage to begin with.



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