Life Insurance for Smokers – Tips on Getting the Best Rates

Whether you indulge in tobacco or marijuana, finding affordable life insurance can be tricky. The good news is that unlike marijuana, you won’t be flat out declined for smoking cigarettes. Life Insurance for smokers is easier. Unfortunately, it tends to be more expensive. A lot more expensive.

The good news is that nearly every life insurance company in the country will offer life insurance for smokers. Which means competition. Competition means some companies will offer drastically better rates.

How Insurance Companies Define Smoker

This varies from company to company. Most life insurance companies will consider someone a smoker who indulges in any tobacco related product.

This includes the following:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • E-cigarettes
  • Nicotine Patches
  • Nicotine Gum
  • Chewing Tobacco
  • Pipe Tobacco

​Now the exceptions. Some companies will offer non-smoker rates to people who exclusively use e-cigarettes, nicotine substitutes, chewing tobacco, or even pipe tobacco.

Cigars are their own grey area.

The Occasional Cigar

life insurance for smokers cigar

Most life insurance companies will not consider you a smoker for a cigar or two a year.

What happens if you do have the occasional cigar? Maybe you are celebrating something special. Or perhaps you are finally taking that trip to Cuba.

​The occasional cigar is not a habit. Any long term health effects are negligible. Therefore many companies will not hit you with smoker rates for a couple cigars a year.

Why Smokers Pay More for Life Insurance

We are long past the age where the adverse health affects of cigarettes were up for debate. They decrease your life span by around 10 years. You are 4 times as likely to develop heart disease as you age.

Life insurance companies are in business to make money by providing a service. If you buy permanent insurance, they need time to invest your premiums and make a profit. If you buy term, they need most people to outlive their insurance to pay for the people who don’t.

Smoking reduces your life span. Thus the insurance companies have neither as good a chance that a smoker will outlive their policy nor the time to invest and cover their costs. So they need to charge more to balance the books.

Life insurance for smokers costs twice what a non-smoker pays. Some companies charge 3 or 4 times as much.

The Cotinine Test – What About the Nicotine Test?

life insurance for smokers testNicotine does not stay in your system for more than a few days. When you smoke your body processes nicotine into cotinine. Cotinine stays in your system for up to a week. Normally 4 to 5 days.

Normally insurance companies test for cotinine in urine. The urinalysis is a normal part of the medical exam for life insurance. Commonly called a paramed exam. Urine is more accurate than a saliva test and will show the amount of cotinine in your system.

The underwriters at the company will look at how much cotinine is in your system at the time of the exam. Then they will see if that matches up with what your application says about smoking. If it matches, everything is fine. If it doesn’t, then there starts to be problems.

What if I Lie?

If you lie on your application and it gets caught in underwriting, one of two things will happen. They might send your life insurance agent an email asking if there were any errors on the smoking section of the application. This is a polite way of saying, “We caught you in a lie, but are giving you a second chance.” If you say, “Oops, sorry. It should say this.” Underwriting might continue.

The insurance companies do not have to do this. We’ve seen it in a handful of cases, but it is not the normal operating procedure. Please don’t try it.

The other (more likely) scenario is you get declined. Underwriters can decline people as “moral hazards.” Life insurance for smokers is expensive for you and the insurance company. Life insurance for liars is not a game any company wants to be in.

What Happens if the Lie Isn’t Caught in Underwriting?

Let’s say Bob smokes. He then quits for two weeks to make sure any cotinine is out of his system before applying for life insurance. He lies on their application saying he has never smoked. This makes it through and a life insurance policy is put in force.

If Bob then dies from a smoking related disease, the insurance company will attempt to prove fraud. Meaning they will not pay his beneficiaries. They could also sue. Many times, without that life insurance payout, the family cannot afford to fight the lawsuit.

What if I Quit?

To count as a non-smoker, a year must pass between your last cigarette and life insurance application. Some companies will still penalize your rates a little. 5 years from your last cigarette should negate any smoker rating.

You will find some companies who have a ladder type program. Smoker rates for the first year after quitting. Better rates for years 2 and 3. Then non-smoker rates after year 5.

Taking out a policy then quitting is an option. Most companies will reconsider your rates after you have been smoke free for 12 months. Just contact your insurance agent and have them work with the company on your behalf.

What if I Live With a Smoker?

life insurance for smokers rates

If you life with someone who smokes, that should not affect your rates. Even if there is a little cotinine in your system.

Second hand smoke is a concern to medical professionals. Therefore it is a concern for insurance companies.

If you live with someone who smokes, you might have cotinine in your system at the time of the life insurance exam. Normally this amount is extremely low and taken into consideration. That’s why they use the urinalysis to get precise results.

The urinalysis will show the difference between someone who smokes and someone who lives with a smoker. If you are extremely worried about this, make sure to note it on your application. That way your underwriter will be aware.

Rate Classes for Tobacco

Life insurance for smokers could be one of two rate classes. The difficulty is making general statement about both of them for all 850+ companies that operate in the United States. Take the following as general guidelines.

The difference between preferred and standard smoker rates is related to your health. It’s not about your smoking. Although someone who smokes a couple times a day versus someone who smokes a pack a day is more likely to call into the preferred category.

Preferred Smoker

Except for smoking, this person is in excellent health. They have little to no family history of medical problems. They have a standard BMI (height/weight), good blood pressure, no serious diseases, etc.

Standard Smoker

life insurance for smokers ecigarettes

Not with all companies. But many will allow non-smoker rates for e-cigarettes.

A standard smoker is someone who is in okay health. Maybe their BMI or cholesterol is a little high. Perhaps they have a family history of thyroid cancer. There are a multitude of factors that go into determining whether someone gets a standard or preferred rating.


We mentioned earlier that some companies will offer non-smoker rates to people who use other nicotine products. Other nicotine products means anything except cigarettes.

If you haven’t smoked a cigarette for over a year and are using a smokeless tobacco instead, you might qualify for non-smoker rates. Your insurance agent should know which companies will offer this option. Prudential is one of our favorite companies to offer non-smoker life insurance for smokers for this reason.

Example Rate Tables

We ran sample rates for both men and women. So you can see the differences between the two rates and choose the right company for your smoking preferences. While cigarettes will always be smoker rates, you can get non-smoker rates for other types of tobacco with a few companies. Make sure your agent researches which companies offer the best rates for what you tend to smoke. At Marcan Insurance, we automatically search out the lowest priced company for smokers.

Male – $250,000 – 20 Year Term – Preferred Health


Female – $250,000 – 20 Year Term – Preferred Health


Tips for Finding Affordable Life Insurance for Smokers

Finding affordable life insurance for smokers is not so bad. The major trick is to make sure you apply with company who will not charge you 4x the non-smoker rate.

Have an Independent Agent Shop the Market for You

​There two types of agents in the life insurance world. Independent agents and captive agents. Independent agents are able to sell the products of many companies. Captive agents are contractually bound to only sell the products of one company.

​It doesn’t matter how many different types of life insurance policies you can buy from Company X. If Company X charges 4x non-smoker rates for smokers. There is no way to get around that.

​An independent agent can look at how Company A through ZZZ underwrites smokers. Then they can immediately rule out the ones who will charge too much. Plus, they will know the companies who offer non-smoker rates to someone who prefers vaping.

Consider Switching to Smokeless Tobacco

Like we mentioned earlier, smokeless tobacco is not nearly as penalized as cigarettes by many life insurance companies. If you can switch for at least a year, you may be able to get non-smoker rates and save yourself buckets of money. Even after you take out a policy, ask your insurance company to reconsider your rates.

How Marijuana Insurance Life Can Help​

At Marijuana Life, our agents specialize in helping smokers (tobacco or cannabis) find affordable life insurance. ​We are an independent agency. Meaning we can shop the market. With access to over 70 of the top rated life insurance companies in the U.S., there is always something affordable.

We work for you, not the insurance company. If we get an offer back on your application that we don’t think is fair, we will look into other rates for you. It’s important to us that you get the best deal.

With the underwriting guidelines above, you can use our Instant Quotes tool to find rates right now. You can also call (888) 987-8447 with any questions. Calls are 100% confidential and there is never any obligation to buy.