Do Life Insurers Have to Know If You Smoke Cigarettes or Cigars? statement: One should always be truthful on a smoker life insurance application.

Article by Joseph Donaldson, CLU
Reprinted with permission from Sioux City Gazette, November 12, 2009

Rate differentials between smoker life insurance and non-smoker plans are generally higher by a factor of between three and four. As an example: Prudential Life 20 year term for a 55 year old male is $1,680 per year. The same policy for a smoker is $5,950. It is easy to understand the motive for dishonesty.

How do insurers know if you smoke or not?

1. The life insurer will ask you your smoking status on the application.

2. A telephone interview will occur (especially for larger policies).

3. Medical records are reviewed (did you tell your doctor your smoking status?)

4. A urine sample is given (Nicotine metabolizes completely within a week)

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta studied the metabolism of nicotine in a comprehensive study in 2005. The conclusion was that nicotine 95% metabolizes after 94 hours. The biomarker that is used to measure tobacco use is called “cotinine.”

Cotinine measurements can accurately measure tobacco use and even the amount of cigarettes or cigars that one smokes daily.

1. Cotinine has a half life of 20 hours.

2. Cotinine will completely disappear from the blood stream in a week.

3. Menthol cigarettes stay longer in the blood stream.

4. African descendants tend to store cotinine longer.

5. After 94 hours – trace amounts of cotinine can be attributed to 2nd had smoke.

What happens if you smoked a cigarette within 72 hours and were caught lying?

Surprisingly, nothing. You will be offered smoker life insurance based on the cotinine being in your bloodstream.

What happens if you get away with non smoker life insurance and die within two years?

A standard life insurance policy is “contestable” for the first two years. The insurer can and will investigate any death within two years of the policy being in force. Even if you die in a motorcycle accident the insurance company will thoroughly investigate with a fine comb the entirety of your application. If there are any seemingly provable falsehoods, i.e. lies, then the life insurance company will deny payment to the beneficiary.

What happens if you get away with smoker life Insurance it and die within three years?

At the three year period, the life insurer will especially be interested if the cause of death is smoking related. Emphysema, heart disease, lung cancer, etc. will cause the insurer to investigate further while a deadly car crash would be a non-issue. The insurer would need an overwhelming amount of proof to deny a claim at this stage. If the life insurer feels somewhat comfortable in their evidence then the industry standard is to pay to the beneficiary the amount of money that the premium would have bought at the higher smoker’s rates.

What happens if you get away with it and die in ten years?

The life insurer will pay the claim.

Are you required to inform the insurer if you start smoking?


What is your recommendation? Should I lie?

Of course, one should be honest. When one pays less than they should for life insurance it causes others to pay higher rates. You are not only cheating the huge multinational company but taking money out of the pockets of other policy holders. It is best to do the right thing.

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