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Do you qualify at smoking rates on your life insurance? Is there any way to get around these higher premiums? What about marijuana smoking? Or Vaping? We’ll answer all these questions in this article, and show you some strategies to reduce your premiums.

Definition of smoking

When it comes to life insurance, whether or not you qualify at smoking rates depends on your smoking habits and the companies’ definition of smoking. It does NOT depend on whether you qualify yourself as a smoker. This distinction is important, as you may smoke only occasionally, not consider yourself a smoker, and still be rated as a smoker by life insurance companies. In other cases, you may smoke actively and receive non-smoking premiums. 

In terms of nicotine, if you smoke cigarettes, even once in the last year, then every life insurance company will qualify you as a smoker. Vaping of any kind that may include nicotine is similar – even if you don’t actively smoke, vaping nicotine even once will qualify you at smoking premiums.

Pipe, cigar and cigarillo’s can be an exception. Many companies will still consider any use of these products in the last year to be a smoker. However some life insurance companies may allow for non-smoking premiums, generally under two conditions:

1) very limited use in the last year, i.e. only a few cigars.
2) you must not show any indication of smoking in your urine sample (you have to ‘pee clean’).

Life insurance for marijuana users

Whether or not you qualify as a smoker while using only marijuana (no intermingling with tobacco or nicotine products) does not depend on how you partake. Edibles, smoking, or vaping all will qualify you as a marijuana user. However, being a marijuana user does not immediately qualify you at smoking premiums. In fact, many marijuana smokers can now qualify at non-smoking premiums.

The exact guideline for when marijuana use will qualify you at smoking premiums vs non-smoking premiums varies by company, but they all boil down to the same basic principle. If you use marijuana occasionally and recreationally then you will likely qualify at non-smoking premiums. Any use above amounts that would be considered occasional and recreational would be considered at smoking premiums.

How to reduce your smoking premiums

You can’t directly reduce your premiums if you are considered a smoker – the premiums are the premiums. However there is a strategy that we can implement that can effectively reduce the premiums.

The strategy rests on the assumption that you’re likely to quit smoking for a full year, within the next couple of years. If that’s the case, then here’s how you can reduce your life insurance premiums.

Step 1: Purchase the shortest term policy that you can find (generally a term 10), which will be at smoking premiums. This will be a drastic premium reduction over a term 20 or term 30 at smoking premiums.
Step 2: Quite smoking for a full year.
Step 3: Request for reconsideration to reduce your premiums on your current policy to be non-smoking premiums.
Step 4: Exchange your term 10 policy for a new term 20 or term 30 policy.

The effect of this is that you’re paying substantially reduced Term 10 premiums instead of Term 20 or Term 30 premiums, until you qualify at nonsmoking premiums – this could reduce your life insurance premiums by half. Then once you qualify at nonsmoking premiums, use the exchange option to switch to the longer term that you originally wanted, but now at non-smoking premiums.

Roughly, this strategy will provide you with premiums that are similar to non-smoking premiums.

What if I start smoking later?

If you qualify correctly for non-smoking premiums now, and later smoke in a fashion that would mean your life insurance premiums should be for a smoker, what happens then? The good news is: nothing happens. Life insurance companies cannot retroactively change your policy once it’s issued, and they can’t take into account your future unexpected actions, at that time in the future. The life insurance company cannot modify your policy in the future if you start smoking, start skydiving, or take up a risky occupation. Your future insurability is the risk that the company takes on when they issue the policy – so, no, if you should smoke in the future it won’t change your existing life insurance policies.