How Smoking Affects Life Insurance Payout

If you’re looking to get life insurance, you need to be prepared for the questions the agents will ask you.  One of the questions you’ll be asked is whether you smoke.  Most insurance companies usually request this information because they consider smokers high risk investments regardless of their age.  In fact, once you answer in the affirmative, you’re likely to pay between 40%-100% extra on the standard premium rates.  Your age also plays a role.  Insurance premiums for smokers in their 20s and 30s are usually lower than for smokers in their 40s and 50s.

Why Is This?

Smoking has been closely associated with some potentially fatal diseases and conditions.  According to numerous medical studies and research, people who smoke are more likely to develop coronary heart diseases, cancer, stroke, acute bronchitis, emphysema, low fertility problems, infant sudden death syndrome, osteoporosis and impotence.  Looking at all these, you surely understand why insurance companies consider smokers high risk and charge them higher premiums seeing as they are more likely to claim their benefits if they outlive their term insurance or die quicker and have their beneficiaries claim the benefits.

Quit Smoking for Life Insurance

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quit smoking by peevee@ds, on Flickr.  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

What Does the Insurance Company Consider Smoking?

Some people don’t think of themselves as smokers because they only “take a drag” 10-20 times a year.  Others feel that just because they smoke 5 times a year, they aren’t smokers.  Well, underwriters do not measure premium rates based on whether you’re a 20 packs a day smoker or an occasional/social smoker.  All smokers are treated equally.  So, quantity is completely irrelevant.  As a rule, you’ll have to stay off cigarettes, e-cigarettes and cigars for 12-18 months before you can be cleared as a non-smoker.

So What Happens When You “Stretch the Truth” or Lie Out-rightly?

Some people lie about their smoker status in their applications just to get lower premium rates.  This is a risky move and can cost you dearly.  Insurance companies check and carry out routine background and medical checks in about 20% of the cases.

So, when insurance companies find out about the lie – particularly when you have a medical condition that is associated with smoking – they may cancel the insurance completely, adjust the premium rate and backdate the payments or refuse to pay out any claims.  For the last one, their reason is usually that you didn’t pay the smoker premium rates, so why should they release the funds for a smoking related medical condition.  You really can’t fault them on that.

how smoking can affect your life insurance

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Which brings us to the question: Does smoking affect how much you’ll get when your insurance term expires or after your death?  Will they pay the required benefits when the time comes?  If you have been paying the higher premium rates as a smoker, sure they will.  But if you haven’t, they won’t.  It’s really that simple.  So, while you’re looking through and selecting life insurance for smokers packages, make sure that you find one that will both meet your needs and is also affordable.

Bottom line, smoking is not good for both your health, finances – it doesn’t make sense that you have to pay 100% more premium just because you smoke – and your retirement plans.  But, if you smoke and most importantly tell them that you do, your claims and payout should be as expected.  And if you have a unique situation where you didn’t smoke when you started making insurance payments, but have over the years developed the habit, talk to a consultant or advisor.  They will help you figure out what you need to do.  Hint: tell the insurance company as soon as you start smoking so they can make the appropriate adjustments.


Arnel Ariate is the webmaster of Money Soldiers.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 4 comments
Allan Ward - October 30, 2013

There’s no doubt that smoking can lead to increased health problems in individuals so the insurers are right in increasing the premiums. The way I see it is that you’re in a higher risk category and whilst the insurance cover will be more expensive, it becomes more necessary.

Caleb - February 22, 2014

Being a tobacco user can definitely have an effect on your life insurance policy. Expect to pay more for life insurance.

    Arnel Ariate - February 22, 2014

    Hi, Caleb. I’d also think that tobacco can have an effect on your life expectancy, too, not just on your life insurance policy. Yes, to clean living. 🙂

Vicky - January 19, 2015

I found that it`s not until after you`ve quit for a while, that you realize just how much it was costing you. Now I save that money for a holiday each year 🙂


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