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Insurance Life Insurance

How Do Life Insurance Nicotine Tests Work?

Deciding to buy life insurance is a responsible choice and a decision your family will thank you for if something ever happens to you. Unfortunately, if you’re a smoker or use tobacco products and want to protect your family, you will likely pay more for the privilege of doing so.

That’s because life insurance companies charge more for smokers due to the increased health risks that smokers present. Statistics show smokers are more likely to pass away while they are covered – and insurers raise premium prices due to the fact they’re taking a bigger risk.

If you’re buying coverage, you may find yourself frustrated with these higher premiums. If you do, it can seem tempting to simply deny that you’re a smoker. The problem is, life insurers may find out you use nicotine anyway as a result of a nicotine test.

Even if the insurer doesn’t discover your nicotine use right away, if it’s discovered later, it may be considered a “material misrepresentation” that voids your coverage or results in your family receiving a lower death benefit if something happens to you.

To make sure you get the coverage you need at an affordable price while not risking your policy’s payout, it’s important to understand how smoking affects coverage and how life insurance nicotine tests work.

Does Smoking Impact the Cost of a Life Insurance Policy?

Smoking affects the price of insurance with most, but not all, life insurance companies. The impact of smoking on your policy premiums will depend upon the underwriting policies of each insurer.

Life insurance underwriting is a process that occurs when you apply for coverage. A skilled underwriter will consider many important factors about your health in order to determine the statistical likelihood you will pass away while covered. Insurers use underwriting to try to minimize their risk and make sure they don’t pay out more money in death benefits than they collect in premiums.  

Underwriters consider any issues that could make you more likely to die while covered, and premiums rise with your risk. Since smokers have a greater risk of developing cancer or other conditions likely to cause their death, insurers raise premiums accordingly.

Your age and health history will also affect both the cost of coverage and whether or not you’ll be approved. This means older smokers will pay more than younger smokers and people who’ve already been diagnosed with a health condition will also see higher premiums or may even be denied coverage altogether.

Since insurers have different rules when it comes to how much smoking affects coverage costs and a small number of insurers claim smoking won’t raise rates at all, it’s especially important for smokers to shop around before buying life insurance.

How Do Life Insurance Companies Test to See if You’re a Smoker?

Life insurers have a few different ways to find out if you’re a smoker during the underwriting process.

Typically, you’ll be required to complete a health questionnaire that includes queries about your history with nicotine. In fact, you’ll likely need to disclose not only whether you currently smoked but also if you smoked in the past. If you answer yes to nicotine use, insurers will likely charge you more than a non-smoker.

Many insurers also require that you undergo a medical exam before buying coverage. During this medical exam, it’s likely you’ll be given a nicotine test. This may be a urine test, blood test, or saliva test. It’s also possible to do a hair test for some substances. Nicotine will likely show up in your hair longer than a urine, saliva, or blood sample. 

What Happens if I Lie About My Tobacco Usage?

You should not lie on your health questionnaire about your tobacco usage as these tests will likely show it. Even if the life insurer doesn’t discover that you smoke during your pre-insurance exam, lying on your health questionnaire is a really bad idea.  

If you aren’t truthful and the insurer later discovers you are actually a smoker – perhaps because there’s nicotine in your body when you pass away – then you could lose the coverage you thought you had. That’s because lying on your questionnaire is considered in some states to be a “material misrepresentation.”

Under the law, when you buy insurance, you’re entering into a contract with the insurer. Making a material misrepresentation can void that contract, so your insurer wouldn’t have to pay the death benefit in some states. In others, your insurer may have to pay something to your beneficiaries if you die while covered, but the death benefit could be substantially reduced if the insurer finds out you lied about smoking.

The risk of lying to obtain coverage is too great, as your family could be left financially unprotected after you’ve paid years of premiums.

Will Quitting Cold Turkey Help You Pass a Life Insurance Nicotine Test?

If you’re frustrated about the increased premiums that come with smoking, quitting cold turkey to get better rates may seem like a good idea. Unfortunately, this isn’t always going to be effective at reducing what you pay for insurance.

How Long Does Nicotine Stay in Your Blood?

Signs of nicotine and tobacco products can last in your blood for around a week and can appear in a urine sample for about a month. So, you may show up as a smoker on your pre-insurance medical exam even if you’ve decided to give up the habit.

Furthermore, insurers aren’t just concerned with your health in the days before you buy coverage – they’re concerned about your health over the years prior. If you smoked up until a week, month, or year ago, you still present an increased risk compared with a non-smoker so your coverage is likely to still be more costly. You’ll need to disclose this on your health exam or you also run the risk of your insurer finding out later that you lied. Even using a nicotine patch or nicotine gum may show up in your test results.

The good news is that if you quit and you don’t pick up the habit again, eventually the risk of insuring you goes down. When this happens, the insurer will generally adjust your rates downward if you let them know you’ve remained nicotine-free. Of course, quitting is also better for your health, so it can be a good idea for lots of reasons.

Bottom Line

When you shop for insurance, smoking raises your life insurance rates and may prevent you from getting the best life insurance because smoking increases the risk you’ll pass away. Despite the higher costs of insurance for smokers, you shouldn’t try to lie your way out of the higher rates because nicotine stays in your system for a while even after you stop using it. 

So, if you want the best rates, you’ll need to quit smoking. If you aren’t ready to give up nicotine, it will be especially important to shop carefully to find the coverage you need at the most affordable price.