Will smoking an occasional cigar increase my life insurance?
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UPDATED: Jul 22, 2011
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Many people applying for insurance list themselves as “non-smokers.” However, some of these people may actually puff on a cigar once or twice a week. They honestly believe that the cigar smoking is not the same as being a “smoker.” However, insurance companies do not always have the same viewpoint. In fact, because of the cigar smoking, the company may list them as “smokers,” just as if they smoked a pack of cigarettes every day. Does occasional cigar smoking put them into a different category from full-fledged smokers? Can a company still define them as smokers and charge them higher premiums?
The answer to these questions ultimately depends on the company. There are no real laws regulating what an insurance company must define as “smoking” or “non-smoking.” Companies are free to set their own policies, but the probability is that cigar smoking will not be completely ignored by an insurance company.
Unfortunately, the people who smoke a weekly cigar but do not consider themselves “smokers” may be fooling themselves about the damage to their bodies caused by this habit. Smoking cigars can be just as harmful as other tobacco products, although many people consider an occasional cigar to be less deadly since they don’t “inhale” the smoke. The fact is, inhaling smoke has nothing to do with whether nicotine can invade the bloodstream. While cigars may cause less lung cancer due to lack of inhaling, the nicotine absorbed through the lining of the mouth can cause just as much damage to the pancreas, bladder, and other organs as cigarette smoke. Cigars tend to have higher nicotine content than cigarettes, and are smoked for much longer periods of time, so it is possible that they are truly more deadly than other forms of tobacco. On the other hand, cigarette smokers tend to smoke much more often than cigar smokers, generally many times a day for relatively short periods of time, so overall they may be putting more nicotine into their bodies than the once-a-week stogie puffer.
If you only smoke one cigar a week, it is possible that the insurance company will look the other way and grant you a policy at non-smoker terms. This is not because the company does not recognize the dangers of cigars, but because the focus of the health care and other interested industries is mainly on cigarettes. Even chewing or dipping tobacco does not rate the interest that cigarettes have to the public, though these forms of tobacco are far more likely to cause mouth and throat cancers. Because cigarettes are the focus of anti-smoking campaigns, cigars have been largely ignored. Further, people tend to enjoy cigars far more rarely than cigarettes, which gives the false impression that the person smoking the cigar is not “really” a smoker. It is true that many people who smoke cigars do so only on rare occasions or in certain situations. However, any smoking, whether cigar, cigarette, pipe, or other form of tobacco use, contains health risks.
The simplest way to avoid smoking premium increases in your life insurance is to avoid tobacco altogether. However, many people feel they should be able to occasionally indulge in a cigar without paying higher premiums for their insurance, and therefore may not disclose their habit when applying for the policy. This can be a dangerous game to play, especially if you are having a medical exam to qualify for life insurance. The effects of cigar smoke generally last about four days in the human body, although certain conditions can cause nicotine residuals to appear for a longer period of time. Secondhand cigar smoke can also show up in a person’s medical testing. Hair samples will show nicotine for long periods of time. In short, you are probably not going to fool the insurance company for very long, and if you do, the consequences when they find out the truth can be very unpleasant. Some companies consider failure to report a pre-existing condition or behavior fraud and will pursue criminal action against the insured. At the very least, you will probably lose your coverage.
If you are an occasional cigar smoker, it is far safer and better to simply tell your agent that fact. There are many companies in stiff competition for life insurance customers, so some of them will likely ignore your occasional smoking and offer you a good rate for your insurance. Even if your rate is slightly higher than that of a non-smoker, it will probably not reach the level of a regular cigarette smoker. Of course, each company is different, and only by talking to the individual agencies can you determine their stance on cigar smoking.