Can You Hide Smoking from Life Insurance Companies?

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Anyone who smokes has considered it: quit smoking for a while, tell your insurance company you're a non-smoker, get lower rates... then, if you light up again, so what? Well, if that's your strategy, be careful not to get your ash handed to you.

Editor’s Note: This post comes from partner site Insure.com.

How much smoking does it take to be considered a “smoker,” and what if you fudged your answer about smoking on your life insurance application?

Life insurance companies want an accurate picture of activities that could affect your longevity. Questions about whether you’ve used nicotine in the past few years go along with questions about whether you pilot a private plane or plan to travel to dangerous countries.

Who is considered a nicotine user?

Life insurance companies generally use three broad rate classifications for pricing policies: standard, preferred or preferred plus. Then there are the rates for nicotine users, who pay significantly higher premiums within their classes. The definition of a “nicotine user” is someone who uses any form of nicotine delivery, including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, a nicotine patch and nicotine gum. The look back period will vary by insurer. Some will judge you to be a nicotine user if you’ve used a nicotine product in the past five years.

Many life insurance companies will allow the “celebratory” or “occasional” cigar smoker to still qualify for non-smoking rates. Insurers generally define “occasional” as smoking 12 cigars or less per year. Of course, the urine sample you provide for your life insurance medical exam must be nicotine-free, too.

If you’re a regular smoker, it’s not a good idea to lie on your application in order to escape detection to get a lower rate.

If you’ve lied on your application about nicotine use and then nicotine turns up in your medical exam tests, you’ll be issued your policy at the smoking rate.

The worst case scenario? Say you die of a heart attack and it comes to light that you’ve been a smoker all your life. The insurance company could justifiably deny the claim. That’s not a position in which you want to put your beneficiaries. It’s better to pay the extra premium and know your beneficiaries will eventually collect the benefit.

Perhaps you’ve made an application and don’t like the nicotine rate you’ve been given. Don’t try to apply with a different company and lie to get nonsmoker rates; your previous medical exam results will sit in a database operated by MIB Group for seven years. When the insurer checks your new application against the MIB database, which is used to detect fraud, your history will be revealed.

Stacy Johnson

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