Eligibility for life insurance for smokers
There are several factors insurers will consider before issuing a life insurance policy.
- Age: Typically, younger individuals who are healthier pose less of a risk and may qualify for better rates than someone more advanced in age.
- Gender: Since women tend to live longer than men, female applicants may qualify for better rates, all other criteria equal.
- Health status: Life insurance companies will ask questions about things like risky behavior, cancer diagnoses, and family history. More risk or history of illness could result in increased rates.
- Tobacco status: Applicants are generally considered smokers if they've smoked in the last 12 months. But it's important to keep in mind that different life insurance companies may have their own criteria for what's considered smoking. Smoking typically encompasses smoking cigarettes but may also include:
- E-cigarettes and vaping
- Chewing tobacco, snuff, dissolvable tobacco, etc.
How smokers are rated for life insurance
Life insurance companies categorize smokers and non-smokers by risk. Companies may have different names for their classifications, but some commonly used categories are:
- Preferred non-smoker: Those accepted in this category have excellent health, including good readings for blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol. To be accepted in the preferred or super preferred category, there should be no history of premature death of parents or siblings from cancer or heart disease. Applicants should also have a clean driving record with few moving violations and accidents.
- Standard non-smoker: The average person falls into the standard category. These applicants may be overweight or receive treatment for high blood pressure. They may also have a family member who passed prematurely from heart disease or cancer.
- Preferred smoker: Smokers who would otherwise receive placement in the preferred category fall here. If someone is trying to quit, it will be about five years before they can qualify for the most favorable non-smoking rates.
- Standard smoker: Smokers who would otherwise be placed in the standard non-smoker category are classified here.
Not everyone is classified neatly into preferred or standard rates. That may be because of a health condition like diabetes or cancer. If someone is uncertain how they'd be rated, it's wise to talk to an insurance company to confirm.
Why smokers may need life insurance
Some smokers trying to quit will delay buying life insurance until they can get a better rate. But if they pass away unexpectedly before that happens, loved ones could be put in a bad financial situation.
The primary purpose of a life insurance policy is to provide financial protection for loved ones, whether that's replacing income, covering final expenses, or leaving a legacy. For these reasons and peace of mind, it can make sense for a smoker to take out a life insurance policy despite the high rates.
The bottom line
It is possible to get a life insurance policy as a smoker. But smokers can expect to see reduced death benefits and higher premiums as a result. So, if someone takes out a life insurance policy as a smoker and later quits, it's critical to go back to the life insurance company to explore any policy options and rate changes.