If you're someone who uses smokeless tobacco like chewing tobacco, snus, or dip, you may have concerns about how this could impact your ability to qualify for life insurance coverage, and how much it will cost.
The good news is that it is indeed possible to get approved for life insurance as a smokeless tobacco user. However, there are some important factors to understand that will affect the rates and terms you are offered by insurance providers.
We’ll break down the key considerations around obtaining affordable life insurance when you chew tobacco or use other smokeless products.
When reviewing an application for life insurance, providers look closely at any tobacco use. This includes not just cigarette smoking, but also less obvious products like chew, snuff, snus, and e-cigarettes. The reason is that tobacco use in any form is correlated with higher mortality rates and increased risk of serious illnesses like cancer.
However, the effects of smokeless tobacco are not considered as severe as cigarette smoking when determining life insurance eligibility and premium costs. Smokeless tobacco is less likely to cause lung cancer and respiratory conditions compared to smoking. At the same time, it does increase the risks of mouth, throat, esophageal, stomach, and pancreatic cancers.
For these reasons, life insurance companies do still view smokeless tobacco as a high-risk behavior. It will make you more likely to pay higher premiums compared to a non-tobacco user. But you are less likely to be declined for coverage than if you were a regular cigarette smoker.
When shopping for life insurance, the two main policy types to consider are term and whole/permanent life insurance.
Term life insurance provides pure death benefit coverage for a set period of time, such as 10 or 20 years. It does not have any cash value building up.
Whole life insurance has guaranteed death benefit coverage for your entire life. It also accrues cash value that you can borrow against if needed. Premiums are paid for life rather than a set term.
For a smokeless tobacco user, term life insurance tends to be more budget-friendly due to the lower premium costs. Approved rates may still be 50-100% higher than for non-tobacco users applying for the same coverage. But term life prevents being locked into higher whole life premiums for decades.
Term life policies also require less extensive medical underwriting. More companies offer guaranteed issue term life that simplifies approval for tobacco users, often with no lab tests or health exams.
|Age||Male Non-Tobacco||Male Tobacco||Female Non-Tobacco||Female Tobacco|
|Age||Male Non-Tobacco||Male Tobacco||Female Non-Tobacco||Female Tobacco|
When applying for life insurance, your use of tobacco products is an important factor that impacts policy eligibility and premiums. So how do insurance companies verify if an applicant uses cigarettes, vape devices, cigars, chewing tobacco, or other nicotine products?
In most cases, life insurance carriers will require a medical exam and lab work as part of the underwriting process. This exam includes testing for nicotine and cotinine, which are chemicals produced when the body metabolizes nicotine.
The nicotine test can detect use within the past few days, while cotinine tests can reveal nicotine use up to several weeks ago. Testing positive for these substances will result in being rated as a tobacco user when determining your premium rate. Improved rates are only possible after testing nicotine-free for over 12 months.
If an applicant does not disclose tobacco use but tests positive, it can lead to rejection of coverage for misrepresentation. Being truthful about your smoking or tobacco habits is essential.
For those unable to qualify for traditionally underwritten policies, no-exam life insurance is an alternative, though at higher cost. Discuss all options with your insurance agent to find the right plan.
When applying for life insurance, it may be tempting to hide or downplay habits like chewing tobacco to get lower premiums. However, this is considered fraudulent and can have serious repercussions if discovered by the insurance company.
During the medical exam and lab testing required for underwriting, tobacco use will be detectable through presence of nicotine and its byproducts. If your results show nicotine but you stated you were a non-tobacco user on the application, this discrepancy can lead to a denied claim.
Insurers can also investigate for misrepresentations during the contestability period, usually the first two years after a policy starts. If lab tests reveal undisclosed tobacco use, the insurer may void the policy entirely or reduce the payout to beneficiaries.
While being honest about tobacco habits will increase policy costs, lying about it can mean losing coverage completely or having less protection for your family when they need it most. It's always wisest to provide accurate information upfront so you end up with appropriate, guaranteed coverage. An agent can help you explore options for getting affordable life insurance as a smokeless tobacco user.
If you're attempting to quit using chewing tobacco or other smokeless nicotine products, you may wonder if you should wait on applying for life insurance until you've kicked the habit. However, delaying coverage can be risky.
By putting off your application, you lose out on locking in rates at your current age. Premium costs will rise as you get older, regardless of tobacco use. You also run the risk of developing new health conditions that could severely impact your eligibility and pricing.
A better option is to apply now for a renewable term life policy that provides needed coverage at an affordable rate. You can then cancel and reapply later as a non-tobacco user to improve your premium discount. Some insurers allow you to re-enter at a new rate if you provide evidence of quitting smokeless tobacco for over 12 months.
Buying life insurance while in the process of quitting, with the help of an experienced agent, ensures you get coverage in place when you need it most. You can then re-evaluate once you’ve stopped using smokeless tobacco products. Don't take the gamble of waiting to apply.
If you’re looking to get the best deal on life insurance as a chewer, here are some tips that can potentially lower your costs:
Comparison shop policies from at least 10 different highly-rated insurers. Rates for tobacco users can vary widely between companies, so this maximizes choices.
Consider a shorter 10 or 15 year term rather than 20 or 30 if you need less long-term coverage. The premiums will be significantly cheaper.
Opt for a lower face value amount if you don’t need hundreds of thousands in coverage. The higher the death benefit, the more it costs.
Improve your health and lifestyle habits outside of tobacco use. Maintain a healthy weight, exercise, limit alcohol, and get regular checkups. The healthier you are, the lower the risk.
If possible, quit using smokeless tobacco for at least 12 months and test nicotine-free. This removes the tobacco rating and can reduce premiums.
Work with an independent agent who can advocate for you during the underwriting process and potentially get you a lower rate class.
While smokeless tobacco use makes getting life insurance more expensive, it should not deter you from getting the coverage you need. Be prepared to pay higher rates and carefully compare all your policy options. With smart shopping techniques, having an experienced agent in your corner, and taking steps to improve your health, you can secure a competitively priced life insurance policy as a chew tobacco user.