Home Column How Do Health Insurance Companies Know If You Smoke – A Question that Determines Insurance

How Do Health Insurance Companies Know If You Smoke – A Question that Determines Insurance

by Dustin Cortright

Insurance keeps us safe and provides with the coverage that we will have in times of need or illness. However, the rates and types of coverage are determined by a lot of factors. It is evident that rates and premiums for a particular coverage are determined on the basis of one’s way of life and life habits.


There is data that each smoker who wants health or life insurance needs to pay 15-20% more than other people due to their smoking habits. This can pile up to huge premiums of life insurance and smokers usually try to find some other means in insurance coverage to pay less.

For example, some people quit smoking for some period of time, and then get insurance as non-smokers, but continue to smoke after they get lower premiums than they would have a smoker. To put it simply, these people lie that they do not smoke. However, insurance companies have introduced medical tests in order to determine whether people are really smokers or not.

Nicotine and Tobacco Tests

How do health Insurance companies know if you smoke? Some insurance companies require an applicant to undergo a medical exam. These exams and tests are designed in such a way that they detect the presence of nicotine and cotinine, both being present in cigars and cigarettes. However, it needs to be said that there are several factors that influence the presence of cotinine and nicotine in a body. Those factors include age, a frequency of smoking, the food you eat, physical activities you do, length of smoking and water intake.

How Do Health Insurance Companies Know If You Smoke

source: salesforce.com

Even when you stop smoking, it may take up to five years for all these toxins to leave your body and for companies to consider you as a non-smoker. It needs to be added that some companies offer reclassification. Namely, you have the chance to make the plan for you to quit smoking, then you have a medical exam in a year and a half or two and then you are classified as a non-smoker if you pass it.

Urine and Saliva Tests

The most usual test that is used to check if someone is a smoker since it gives results in 5 minutes. It is a good test since cotinine stays in the urine and saliva up to four weeks for a regular smoker. This is usually done along with the urine test to prove it right. The results are obtained in the timeframe from twelve hours to a couple of days. Saliva is taken from the inside of cheeks or under the tongue.

Blood Testing

These are not as common as the previous two due to their price and complicity. They are usually applied if you present a risk and has a policy with greater limits of insurance. Three to ten days are needed for cotinine to leave blood and about a month for those who are regular smokers.

How Do Health Insurance Companies Know If You Smoke

source: policygenius.com

Hair Tests

The most unusual cotinine testing. It is almost never done since it is the most expensive method. On the other hand, they are the most precise tests there are.


So, smoking can have an impact on your insurance premiums. But, never lie about it since it can be detected and you can have consequences.

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