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Smoking term life insuranceWhether you are a casual smoker or a habitual one, buying term life insurance is going to cost you more than if you didn't smoke at all.

"If you are a smoker you are going to...50% to 65% more for life insurance," says Ray Caucci, vice president of product management at Penn Mutual.

Smokers have a lower life expectancy due to the many health hazards of smoking. Many life insurance companies require urine test and blood tests to determine whether or not you smoke.

"It doesn't depend on how much you smoke," Caucci says. "If you have any trace of nicotine in your urine, we will consider you a smoker."

Any nicotine user will receive “smoker” life insurance rates, whether the nicotine gets into your bloodstream through chewing tobacco, nicotine patches or gum, or other products. Read on to find out how smoking affects life insurance rates.

  • If you are a smoker, you will pay 50-65% more for life insurance than a non-smoker.
  • Buying group coverage or getting a life insurance policy from your employer may be easier and more cost-effective for smokers.
  • Some insurers charge lower life insurance rates for “preferred smokers” who, other than smoking, maintain good health.

How much is term life insurance for smokers?

The cost of term life insurance depends on a lot of factors; smoking is just one of them. Your age, the death benefit amount and other risk factors will also play a role. however, all else being equal, here's a look at average rates for a $500,000 term life policy at 10- and 20-year terms for smokers vs. non-smokers.

10-year-term rates:

  • Female, 25 years old: $281 for a non-smoker, $629 for a smoker
  • Make, 25 years old: $344 for a non-smoker: $826 for a smoker
  • Female, 45 years old: $577 for a non-smoker. $1,638 for a smoker
  • Make, 45 years old: $694 for a non-smoker, $2,093 for a smoker

As, you can see, buying life insurance young makes a big difference, but smokers will still pay a lot more than non-smokers.

Group life insurance for smokers

If you smoke, buying group coverage may be your best option for getting better life insurance rates.

If you work for a company that provides life insurance, you can likely secure lower-cost coverage through that plan than through buying a policy on your own. Typically, there are no medical exams for group life insurance because the coverage is being provided for the whole group, which spreads out the risk, says Richard Kappers, director of marketing for life insurance products at Philadelphia-based CIGNA.

However, even with group life insurance, you may have to pay more than a non-smoker does. Kappers says some insurers establish different group rates for smokers and non-smokers, with smoker rates averaging anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent higher than nonsmoker rates.

You may be tempted to stretch the truth and say you do not smoke when in truth you do. But keep in mind that it's fraud and the insurer could deny a life insurance claim, Kappers says.

"We retain the right if fraud was committed to rescind coverage or deny any claim," says Kappers.

And even if you quit smoking tomorrow, you’ll generally have to wait a while to see better life insurance rates. For example, CIGNA offers lower rates to people who have quit smoking for at least a year, Kappers says.

Preferred smoker rates vs. standard smoker rates

Although Penn Mutual gives all varieties of smokers a smoking rate, some other insurers will cut you a break if you smoke but are otherwise in good health.

For example, Genworth Insurance charges different life insurance rates for "preferred smokers" – those who get high marks for weight, cholesterol readings and past medical history – and "standard smokers," says Ray Dinstel, chief underwriter for life insurance and long-term care underwriting at Genworth.

Genworth offers preferred smokers life insurance rates that are 25% lower than the rates of standard smokers, Dinstel says. But whether you're "preferred" or "standard," you'll still pay more than non-smokers.

If you already have life insurance and start smoking later, you don't have to tell the insurance company, and it won't affect your rates.

"We can't control what happens after the contract is approved," Dinstel says. "If your health changes or you do start smoking, the contract is [still] enforceable."

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