It is fairly common knowledge that smokers are expected to pay more for their life insurance. Prices for smokers can be 40% to 100% higher than prices for non-smokers. This is because smokers are statistically more likely to have ongoing health problems, and to pass away at a younger age. If you are a smoker, you may have thought about quitting at some point in the future, for health reasons, and also to get cheaper life insurance! However, insurance companies have some pretty strict rules surrounding smoking and who they class as a non-smoker that you might not know about…
A non-smoker, in life insurance terms, is someone who has not smoked at all for the last 12 months. This means if you are an occasional smoker, you will possibly be charged the same premiums as a heavy smoker. I say possibly, because some life insurance providers separate people into ‘bands’, i.e. non-smoker, occasional smoker and smoker. So make sure you always ask about smoker rates during your application, as you don’t want to be charged too much for your occasional cigarette on a Saturday night!
With most insurance companies, you can only be considered as a non-smoker once you have been smoke free for a whole year. This might seem like a downside if you quit 3 months ago and want to apply for some cheap life insurance, but you always have the option to change your smoker status midway through your policy. Once it has been 12 months since your last cigarette, just let your insurer know and they should be able to offer you non-smoker rates. They might want a cotinine test (cotinine is an alkaloid that hangs around in your blood after exposure to tobacco or other products that contain nicotine) but that’s a small inconvenience compared to the much larger one of continuing to pay the high premiums of a smoker!
All this might have tempted you to tell your insurance company that you don’t smoke, even though you do. But it is very important to be completely honest! If you get a cheap life insurance policy because you lied and said you never smoke, the money you spend on your premiums may well be wasted. When a claim is made, your insurance company will investigate, and if they find out that you were a smoker after all, your beneficiaries won’t get a penny, which defeats the object of getting life insurance in the first place. They can find this out by speaking to your doctor or obtaining other medical evidence, and there are even cases of people’s claims being rejected because there were photos of them smoking online!