How Tobacco Chewing Affects Life Insurance Premiums


It’s virtually a forgone conclusion that smoking has an affect on life insurance premiums. Less well understood however is that virtually any use of tobacco products can affect life insurance coverage. That can include chewing tobacco, sometimes referred to as smokeless tobacco, even though it isn’t burned and inhaled.

But there are a whole list of health risks associated with tobacco chewing and most life insurance companies do take this into consideration.

Is Chewing Tobacco the Same as Smoking Tobacco?

Generally speaking, the life insurance industry views nearly any use of tobacco as representing a risk factor. While it’s true that chewing tobacco doesn’t carry as many health risks as smoking, such as respiratory illness and lung cancer, it does involve a higher level of risk compared to a person who doesn’t use tobacco at all.

According to WebMD smokeless tobacco can result in the following health risks:

  • The development of white, leathery patches – known as leukoplakia – on the inside of the cheek or on the gum, that can turn into oral cancer.
  • Abrasion of the teeth, gum recessions and periodontal bone loss.

  • An increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
  • Higher incidence of tobacco addiction – the nicotine from chewing tobacco can lead to nicotine dependence, which can make giving up chewing tobacco as difficult as quitting smoking.

Whether tobacco is smoked or chewed there’s strong evidence connecting the activity with the development of cancer. That alone is reason for life insurance companies to charge higher rates for tobacco chewers.

How Life Insurance Companies View Tobacco Chewing

Even if you tried to not disclose your chewing tobacco habit on a life insurance application, it is highly likely that the company would determine the practice prior to approving your policy. Life insurance companies typically require a physical examination along with the application. The exam will usually require you to provide blood and urine samples – these samples can be used to determine the presence of nicotine in your body.

As a result, they can either assign you premium rates similar to those of tobacco smokers, approve your policy with increased premiums (but not as high as those for smokers), or in some cases they may even decline your application.

Most life insurance companies also follow a “12 month rule”. That is, if you’ve chewed tobacco in the 12 month time period leading up to your life insurance application, you’ll be considered to be in the same risk category as a tobacco smoker. Under this rule, the frequency of your tobacco use is generally not an issue. An occasional user will be lumped in the same class with regular users.

Exactly how much a life insurance company will charge you in premiums above those of healthy applicants will depend upon the company. On average, life insurance companies charge as much as four times more than the rate for non-smokers for term life insurance policies. Of course, the risks associated with your tobacco use will also be considered in light of your overall health.

Not All Insurance Companies Treat Tobacco Chewing the Same

As just noted, each life insurance company may consider tobacco chewing in its own specific way. Some companies will have a more casual attitude toward it, while others will put it in the exact same category as if you were a regular tobacco smoker.

Some companies will offer more affordable coverage to tobacco chewers, but it depends on the extent of your use. Some such instances include:

  • Some life insurance companies will charge you a standard rate if you are an occasional tobacco chewer and no nicotine appears in your blood and urine tests.
  • Some will have a specific category for smokeless tobacco users, that will be considerably less expensive than the rates that they charge for regular smokers.
  • Some companies may charge you only slightly more as a tobacco chewer as long as you are otherwise in excellent health

These possible outcomes make it absolutely imperative that you select and apply to the right life insurance companies as a tobacco chewer. Since it will be virtually impossible for you to know which companies fall into that category, it will be to your advantage to work with a seasoned insurance agent who knows who those companies are. This will save you both time and money.

And you have nothing to lose either – you won’t pay more for your life insurance by using an agent or broker. The insurance company will not charge you a higher premium because you’re using an agent. Take advantage of this arrangement, and get the most affordable life insurance policy that you can