A perfectly healthy person who smokes can expect to pay, best case, twice as much as a person who doesn’t smoke for life insurance. I’ve been on that soap box often enough that I don’t know that I need to beat it to death anymore.

With that being said, there are other times when smoking can have an even more profound impact on underwriting. An underwriter I know and work with on a regular basis calls the extra premium or sometimes the decline that results from smoking in addition to certain health issues as a “you just can’t fix stupid tax”.

We’ll start with the flagrant examples and work our way back toward some of the more subtle. By the way, all of these examples are from people who have actually called me attempting to get life insurance. A person who has diagnosed COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and still smokes has apparently missed something somewhere and is a slam dunk decline.

A person with an otherwise insurable history of cancer, if they smoke, would either suffer a much higher rating or be declined because they haven’t quite grasped the fact that there is a direct correlation between abusing your body and bad things happening.

One that comes up fairly frequently is the person who has suffered a heart attack or been diagnosed with CAD (coronary artery disease) and still smokes. Hellooo!!!! The doctor said you need to quit. Your wife said you need to quit. The surgeon general said you need to quit. Your mother is going to outlive you because you refuse to get a grip and do the right thing.

Asthma and smoking. Depending on the severity of the asthma, this can be reasonably insurable to highly rated. It’s frankly never made a lot of sense to me. If you have trouble just breathing air, why would you substitute smoke for air? Kind of like if you had trouble swallowing water, substituting mud.

Bottom line. Life insurance underwriting allows for insuring smokers in most cases. Higher rates will always apply when comparing smokers to non smokers. I’ve never been shy about ripping the heads off underwriters when I think they’ve got it wrong. When it comes to smoking combined with smoking caused or exacerbated health issues, I believe they’re right on target.

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