Affordable Life Insurance For Smokers

If you smoke, you probably think that affordable life insurance is not an option. It’s true that smokers pay more for life insurance, but with some effort, you can find a policy that will fit your lifestyle and your budget.
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Author: Brian Greenberg CEO of True Blue Life Insurance
Last updated: June 21, 2021

Individuals who smoke can expect to pay 2 to 4 times the cost, depending on the type of life insurance. See smoker vs non-smoker cost examples.

Even if you are planning to quit, are quitting, or quit smoking, you’ll be faced with penalties. What those penalties will be, though, varies per company.

The same goes for different nicotine products. Using any nicotine product will have insurance providers consider you to be a smoker, but some companies have different penalties when it comes to cigars, smokeless tobacco, vaping, or marijuana.

Is there a difference between smoking cigarettes, cigars, vape, or chewing tobacco?

While life insurance companies penalize customers for smoking, people often assume it is only cigarettes that the insurance company cares about. In actuality, consuming anything nicotine related is considered tobacco use regardless if it is smoking-related or not.

Insurance companies are starting to adjust some of their standards based on the frequency of use, but not on the method consumed.

That means, smoking cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, even nicotine using patches, all of these will place you in the smoker category.

How much more expensive is life insurance for smokers?

Since nicotine products can dramatically affect your health, it also dramatically affects the cost of life insurance. The table below shows that term life insurance can cost 2 to 4 times more when the only difference is whether the individual smokes or not.

It’s for this reason that it pays to compare multiple carriers at once. While a company can be rated excellent, they may penalize you far greater than another company.

The following term life insurance rates are calculated for a $250,000 policy and a 20-year term.

Life insurance rates for $250,000, smoker vs non-smoker:

AgeGenderSmokerNon smoker
25Male$35.61$12.35
Female$26.75$10.89
35Male$46.75$13.38
Female$38.89$12.12
45Male$106.46$26.31
Female$79.69$21.22
55Male$254.53$64.81
Female$178.71$48.87

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The best life insurance companies for smokers

While you can be considered a current smoker, that still does not mean each company will penalize you the same way. Many people consider vaporized smoking (or vaping) to be a ‘healthy’ alternative to cigarettes, for example, but even if this may be true (some studies are inconclusive), vaporized smoking is still certainly not without risks.

Unlike cigars, cigarettes, and even chewing tobacco, vaporized smoking is a relatively new phenomenon. Life insurance companies generally agree it is bad for you, but with regards to how bad it is—and therefore how much your premiums should increase by—a common consensus is yet to be formed.

However, some life insurance companies are becoming more lenient when it comes to nicotine use. They may ask whether you smoke cigars or cigarettes, for example. As well as how often. This means that if you occasionally smoke a celebratory cigar, you won’t be penalized nearly as bad a “one pack a day” cigarette smoker.

CompanyNotesMedical exam
Banner LifeBest rates for smokersYes
Pacific LifeVery good rates for smokersYes
AIGVery good rates for smokersYes
SBLIBest rates for smokers (no exam)No medical exam for coverage under $500,000
NOAVery good rates for smokersNo medical exam for coverage under $500,000
SagicorVery good rates for smokersNo medical exam for coverage under $500,000

Life insurance for people who quit smoking

How long do I have to quit smoking to get better life insurance rates?

In general, life insurance companies consider you as a current smoker if you are currently smoking or quit smoking within the last 12 months.

You will be considered a non-smoker, once you have not used nicotine products for 12 months or more.

So if you are considering quitting before applying for life insurance, unfortunately, you’ll have to quit for at least 12 months if you want to lock in better rates.

While many insurance companies classify you as a non-smoker (non-tobacco) after 12 months of quitting, that doesn’t mean you get the best rates just yet.

In fact, some companies won’t give you regular non-smoking rates until 5 years after you quit. On the other hand, companies like Sagicor offer non-smoking rates after only 2 years.

Can I adjust my life insurance rate once I quit smoking?

Yes! You won’t be penalized forever if you get life insurance as a smoker. If you quit smoking for 12 months, you can either apply for a new policy, or you can contact your insurance provider and ask them for a more affordable rate.

You could then take a medical exam or a blood, saliva, or urine test to confirm your new status. It’s possible that the insurance company would re-evaluate your situation and lower your premium payments.

For example: Say you are planning to quit smoking, or recently quit. If you apply for life insurance now, yes, you’ll be considered a smoker, and you will pay more. But once you quit the habit and are nicotine-free for a year, you’ll be able to drastically reduce your rate.

What if I quit smoking, but I am using nicotine patches or gum?

If you are currently using a nicotine patch or if you are chewing nicotine gum, it’s fairly obvious that you are trying to kick a habit. That may seem like a point in your favor as far as determining whether you’re considered a tobacco user, but it’s actually likely to work against you as far as the insurance company is concerned.

The patches and gums still deliver nicotine to the body, just like cigarettes and other tobacco products do. So, regardless of how it’s getting into your system, the nicotine can increase your risk for developing heart disease, which is something that doesn’t go over well with insurance providers.

It is likely that you will be considered a current smoker, even if you haven’t smoked for a month and are using nicotine gum or patches instead.

CompanyNotes
Banner LifeStandard/Regular Plus rates after 1 year
Preferred rates after 2 years
Preferred Plus rates after 3 years
ProtectiveStandard/Regular Plus rates after 1 year
Preferred rates after 2 years
Preferred Plus rates after 5 years
SagicorPreferred rates after 2 years
SBLIStandard rates after 1 year
Standard/Regular Plus rates after 2 years
Preferred rates after 3 years
Preferred Plus rates after 5 years

Life insurance for cigar smokers

While cigarette smoking has significantly decreased in the United States, cigar smoking has maintained fairly consistent levels of popularity over the years (over 5% of the population). Even if you do not smoke cigars daily and only smoke them on “certain occasions”, there are a lot of risks associated with smoking cigars and this is something life insurance companies take very seriously.

Cigars have a number of ingredients that have been directly proven to cause cancer, they have even more tar (per gram) than cigarettes, and they also have a number of other components you are going to want to avoid. They can cause damage to your mouth, your throat, your lungs, and several other vital organs. But even if you are a cigar smoker, it does not mean you necessarily cannot get affordable life insurance.

Many life insurance companies have a guideline for what constitutes being a regular smoker that takes place on a monthly basis, and a guideline for getting that label removed that takes place on a yearly basis.

What this means is that they may consider anyone who has smoked a given number of cigars (usually between 1-8 cigars) in the past month is a ‘regular’ smoker, and if you want to get that title removed you are going to have to wait a certain number of years (usually between 1-5 years).

Best life insurance company for cigar smokers

American General insurance company
AIG American General Life Insurance is one of the best options in affordable term life insurance for cigar smokers. Given their relaxed underwriting requirements on cigar smoking and reduced penalties on this type of tobacco use, we believe that AIG is the best option for your life insurance needs.

Life insurance for chewing tobacco (smokeless tobacco)

Some people consider chewing tobacco and snuff to be acceptable alternatives to cigarettes or cigars because neither is actually smoked. Even if you are perhaps saving your lungs their share of suffering, both of these things can still cause a tremendous amount of damage to your body and will certainly cause any life insurance company to view you as a higher risk client.

Like other tobacco products, smokeless tobacco can cause cancer, damage your organs, and cause a substantial amount of harm to your body. Also like other tobacco products, the specific lines that are drawn by life insurance companies are going to vary by the providers themselves—and even might vary by plan.

Many of these companies base their policy on how frequently you have used the product, and will also decide to remove your label as a ‘regular user’ based on how long it has been since you decided to quit. If you tried chewing tobacco one time many years ago, that is unlikely to actually label you as a user. If you have used it regularly or recently—especially recently enough where it will show up in any sort of medical exam—the insurance company is going to have cause for concern (and justification for charging higher premiums).

Best life insurance company for smokeless tobacco

Prudential insurance company
Prudential offers a level of “forgiveness” for smokeless tobacco users by easing underwriting standards for this type of use. There may be a slight rate increase based on the frequency of use, say a can a day compared to a can a week.

Life insurance for people who vape

The known risks of vaporized smoking include addiction, respiratory problems, cardiac irregularities, and a weakened immune system. As is the case with each of the products mentioned in this article, if you believe you could even possibly be considered to be a regular user, you are going to want to shop around and compare different life insurance companies.

Some life insurance companies try to play things safe and will classify e-cigarette smokers along with all other kinds of smokers. Other life insurance companies will try to attract your business and will be willing to offer you only a mild premium increase.

As time goes on, the different options these companies provide will probably become more uniform. But in the meantime, it definitely pays to shop around for the right company.

Best company for vaping

Prudential insurance company
Prudential, yet again, is one of the best choices for customers who enjoy vaping and don’t want to be penalized for being looked at the same as a cigarette smoker. Underwriting standards are more flexible for those who vape and provide more competitive rates.

Life insurance for marijuana users

As ambiguous as the policies regarding vaporized smoking can be, the status of marijuana use in the eyes of life insurance companies is even less clear. All life insurance companies are subject to federal law, and even though recreational marijuana use is now legal in 8 states (with medical use being legal in numerous others), balancing the contradictions existing between state and federal law can be a difficult endeavor.

Most life insurance companies would advise that you don’t smoke anything. But with regards to marijuana, some will consider it the same as tobacco use, some will possibly ignore it, and some simply do not have a clear stance one way or the other. The fact that some people are prescribed marijuana—something that is never the case with tobacco—only serves to make things more complicated.

If you are a regular marijuana user who is considering getting life insurance, you are going to want to speak directly with your agent. This is something they have likely encountered before, and they should be able to answer your questions directly.

Best company for marijuana users

Metlife life insurance company
MetLife is leading the industry with its evolving underwriting standards on the topic of marijuana. While there may be a rate adjustment for users based on frequency, MetLife is willing to underwrite each application on a case by case basis for marijuana users to assess actual risk, instead of lumping every user equal to a cigarette smoker.

Why life insurance is more expensive for smokers

Tobacco users generally pay higher premiums for their life insurance than people who don’t use tobacco. Why? Because people who smoke and use tobacco products are more likely to die — and at an earlier age — than people who don’t.

Most smokers have the misconception of “I know smoking is bad, but I’ll be fine”. Unfortunately, though, statistics don’t lie. Around 14% (a big decline from 20% in 2005) of all deaths in the U.S. are related to tobacco use, says the CDC. That’s more deaths than those resulting from murder, car accidents, and HIV/AIDS combined. More than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease.

So, it’s no wonder the insurance industry is leery when it comes to insuring tobacco/nicotine users. A life insurance company is far more likely to have to pay out a benefit on a policy for a tobacco user — and much earlier than they’d have to on policies for non-tobacco users.

This is why people who smoke (or use other tobacco products) usually have to pay higher life insurance premiums. If you smoke or use other tobacco-related products, we recommend that you shop around to find the best policy for your particular situation. Many factors are involved, so it would be to your benefit to work with a licensed agent who deals with these issues on a daily basis.

Applying for life insurance as a smoker

One of the first questions you’ll be asked when applying for life insurance is about your tobacco/nicotine use. Are you a current user? Did you quit within the past year? Maybe you stopped several years ago.

Maybe you stopped 6 months ago. Maybe it’s been a full year. Some insurance companies will require you to be free from having used any tobacco-related product for as long as 5 years before they’ll give you a “non-smoker” rate.

The timing matters in the eyes of the insurance company, but to what extent will vary from one insurer to another. That’s why it pays to do some research and shop around for the best policy.

Be honest about nicotine use on your life insurance application

Before you qualify for a life insurance plan, many life insurance companies will ask you to pass some sort of medical exam. Typically, these exams include urine and/or blood test in which the life insurance company will be able to find out if you have any threatening diseases or if you have been consuming any dangerous products (such as tobacco).

Even if the tests show up positive for tobacco products, you may still be able to qualify for life insurance but you will end up paying a higher premium for a policy that is otherwise exactly the same.

But suppose you get a term life insurance policy without a medical exam instead or suppose you quit consuming for just long enough before you take the exam. Are there any consequences for deceiving the life insurance company regarding your tobacco use?

Most life insurance companies are not out to get you, and in fact, they are generally recognized as among the most honest service providers in the entire financial industry. But if you are going to be actively engaging in something you know is putting your life at risk, this risk is something you are certainly going to need to be paying for.

If you are dishonest about smoking

If the circumstances of your death can be traced to your undisclosed use of tobacco products, you may end up losing the benefits of your policy altogether. Knowingly withholding risk-oriented information from your life insurance company can be considered insurance fraud, and this is a slippery slope you do not want to begin to go down.

If you want to make sure your life insurance policy will pay your beneficiaries, it is best to be completely upfront with your insurance agent.

The more honest you are about your use of any tobacco products—or any risky behavior for that matter—the more likely they will be able to find a policy that is able to work for you without the risk of losing it all.

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About the author
Brian Greenberg author
Brian Greenberg
Founder and CEO
Brian is licensed to sell life, health, annuities, and property and casualty insurance in all 50 U.S. states. He is the author of The Salesman Who Doesn't Sell and is a member of the Million Dollar Round Table, an organization that consists of the top 1% of financial advisors worldwide.