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Ahh! The good old days when smokers were smokers except with one life insurance company, some smokers weren’t smokers.

This actually wasn’t all that long ago, maybe a year and a half, but there was a company called US Financial who truly looked at things in a different way. This was a company that pioneered what they called “clinical underwriting”, a term that simply meant that they looked at each case on its’ own merit. This differs from traditional underwriting where, literally, each applicant with a health issue or habit is thrown into the same bucket and they are all given the same rate class with very little consideration for differences in control or habits.

This proved to be huge for those people who fell into what US Financial considered a social smoker category. Qualification for social smoker status was pretty straight forward. If you were under age 50, smoked less than a pack a day and had smoked less than 20 pack years (defined as less than a pack a day for 20 years), you could qualify for preferred non smoking rates even though you were in fact smoking.

This differed greatly from traditional underwriting. All the other insurance companies would put you in a smoker category even if you were one of those people who smoked half a dozen cigarettes a month, truly a social smoker. Those companies, which are now all companies since US Financial was purchased and put out of business by AXA Equitable, would have you pay rates 2 to 4 times higher than a non smoker even though there is clearly no clinical or medical link between a very occasional cigarette and the health conditions that are attributable to regular smoking.

But, as happens with most good old days, they disappear. AXA Equitable bought and destroyed one of the best, most innovative companies in the history of life insurance.

Bottom line. Now cigarette smokers are in fact smokers. There is still one bastion of relief for those who use tobacco or nicotine products other than cigarettes. A good independent agent would guide you to Prudential for non smoker rates if you are a cigar smoker or pipe smoker, or happen to chew. Again, all other companies would put you in the same bucket as cigarette smokers for those habits.