Life Insurance For Smokers: The Complete Guide

term life insurance for smokers blog

Getting life insurance for smokers can be a frustrating event.

It all starts with how much are you going to pay and should you disclose if you’re a smoker. Furthermore, which companies are more friendly towards smokers and is there a way to get non-smoker rates? 

In this article, we’ll explore all of the things you need to know about getting term life insurance if you’re a smoker, how to get the best rates, and which companies are best for you. 

If you’re interested in reading more about Life Insurance and income replacement, check out this article!

If you're looking for the best term life insurance for smokers get a FREE INSTANT LIFE INSURANCE QUOTE, by filling out the form to your RIGHT ---> if on Desktop or hit the "Request Quote" button above if mobile.

Table of Contents

Can A Life Insurance Company Tell If You Smoke?

In short, maybe. It really depends on the type of underwriting you go under. 

For example, if you go through a paramedical exam, the insurance company will 100% know if you’re a smoker or not. Exams usually consist of a blood draw, which can certainly detect traces of nicotine in your system. 

If you opt to use a simplified issue policy, you sign a medical release that gives the insurance company the ability to gain access to your medical history. If your smoking is noted by your doctor, the insurance company can find out. 

Under guaranteed issue, the insurance company charges you the absolute highest premium they can justify, because you are undergoing no medical underwriting. 

What Happens If You Lie About Smoking On A Life Insurance Application?

Let’s say you decide to get “creative” with how to reveal your smoking status with the insurance company. What will happen?

Well, there’s a couple of things:

  • If you pass away in the first two years, the insurance company can deny your claim; even if you pass away from a non-smoking related accident. 
  • If the insurance company finds out about your smoking status during the application, your premium will increase, and you can even be denied for coverage.
Lying on the application is not good. It constitutes fraud. Furthermore, you should tell the truth even when getting quotes to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate quote possible. You’re insurance agent can help you find the best company for you, even if you are a smoker. 

DANGER WILL ROBINSON! Don’t put your family’s future at risk by lying on your insurance application. If you pass away and the insurance company denies your claim due to the fact that you’ve misrepresented yourself on your application, YOU are the only person to blame while they’re grieving. 

Are You A Non-Smoker If You....?

There are a lot of different types of “smoking” and not every type is treated equally, even among insurance companies. When getting term life insurance for smokers, it’s a good idea to search a number of different companies that are favorable to smokers to make sure that you’re working with the best company for you. 

Vaping And Life Insurance

Vaping is the act of inhaling steam from a liquid, called E-Juice. This differs from cigarettes because you must burn the cigarette to inhale the smoke.  Vaping also traditionally has less nicotine than cigarette smoke. The FDA treats vaping  identically to smoking cigarettes

Until recently, Prudential was the only company that offered non-smoker rates to people who vape. However, increased illnesses and deaths associated with vaping has caused the company to re-evaluate their pricing structure.

Prudential now classifies vaping the same as a smoker. 


Chew Tobacco And Life Insurance

Chewing tobacco can be complex when shopping for term life insurance.

Individual life insurance companies rate chewing tobacco differently. Some companies will rate it as a smoker class. Others will treat you as a non-smoker if you don’t have traces of nicotine in your system. Still others will rate you as a non-smoker even if you do have nicotine in your system, if you don’t smoke.

If you love Skoal or Grizzly (or any brand really) and are shopping for term life insurance for smokers, you may be overpaying. 

Smoke Marijuana And Life Insurance For Smokers

With 11 states in the US allowing recreational marijuana and 20 states allowing medical marijuana, life insurance companies are slowly starting to turn around on how it rates marijuana smokers. 

However, regardless of state laws, the DEA and federal government still classifies marijuana as a Class I drug.

For the purposes of this post, smoking marijuana can be a bit of a craps shoot. Here are a few questions you need to answer:

  1. Is marijuana legal in your state?
  2. Are you using marijuana recreationally or medically? (If medically, what is your underlying condition?)
  3. How often are you using marijuana?
Each insurance company, because of it’s underwriting and business practices, can view marijuana use differently. Depending on a number of factors, it may be considered for non-smoker rates, you could be charged smoker rates, or declined outright. 

Nicotine Gum Or Use A Patch And Life Insurace

Stop smoking. Cigarette with stop circle around it

Using smoking cessation products, such as nicotine gum or patches, are treated differently between insurance companies. Some companies will rate cessation products the same as cigarettes and other tobacco products or e-cigarettes/vaping.

However, there are some insurance companies that will also use nicotine gum and patches as a non-smoker rate. However, other criteria needs to be met. 

For example:

  • How is your overall health?
  • How often are you using a patch or nicotine gum?
  • How long have you been smoke free? (Less than a year will usually push you to a smoker rate)

Smoke A Pipe Or Cigars And Life Insurance

As you can imagine, just like marijuana and smoking cessation, smoking a pipe or cigar’s can really depend on use. 

Many people use a pipe or cigars recreationally and not daily, as with cigarettes. Furthermore, many people don’t inhale smoke from cigars and pipes, which reduces the damage done to your circulatory system and lungs. 

Thus, life insurance companies can look more favorably on pipes or cigars and offer non-smoker rates. 

For pipe smokers, life insurance companies may grant you non-smoking rates if your urine test shows no nicotine. Nicotine usually leaves your system in 1-3 days, so a negative nicotine findings shows you are not a daily smoker. 

For cigars, one or less per month may qualify you for non-smoker rates. Furthermore, if you don’t inhale, which is common,  you may qualify for non-smoker rates. 

In either case, you’d need to undergo a medical exam with a blood and urine draw. If either of these come back with more than trace levels of nicotine, the life insurance company will likely rate you as a smoker. 

How Much More Does Life Insurance For Smokers Cost?

According to the CDC, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Furthermore, smoking causes disease in virtually every organ of the body and can reduce life expectancy by 10 years. 

With stats like these, it’s understandable that life insurance companies are going to alter their rates due to their increased risk. Check out the case study below for an example on how rates can differ between smokers and non-smokers. 

Case Study on Non-Smoker vs Smoker Rates

Travis Price is a 37 year old male that’s applying for $500,000 in life insurance with a 30 year Term in Michigan. 

Company A offers Travis a Standard Policy:

As a Non-Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $91.88
As a Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $248.50

Company B offers Travis a Standard Policy:

As a Non-Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $87.75
As a Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $229.94

Company C offers Travis a Standard Policy:

As a Non-Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $93.01
As a Smoker, Travis’s monthly rate is $288.49

As you can see above, all three companies have different price points; but the difference between a smoker and non-smoker is approximately 2.5x’s the cost. 

This is the reason it is so vital to stop smoking or find a carrier that will accept your occasional smoking habits as a non-smoker. 

Life Insurance for Smokers Classification

Life Insurance Classifications
  • Preferred Plus
  • Preferred
  • Standard Plus
  • Standard
  • Smoker Preferred
  • Smoker Standard


Case Study For Life Insurance Classification Rates

Travis Price is a 37 year old male looking for $500,000 in term life insurance with a 30 year term.

Life Insurance Company A offers the below rates:

  • Preferred Plus: $45.64
  • Preferred: $53.85
  • Standard Plus: $73.44
  • Standard: $87.75
  • Smoker Preferred: $184.06
  • Smoker Standard: $229.54

As you can see, the best rate that a smoker can get is just at $100 more than the standard rate a non-smoker can get. 

Preferred Smoker

Preferred smoker is a smoker that would qualify for preferred rates if they weren’t a smoker. You must be in Excellent health with no immediate family history of premature death due heart disease or cancer. 

Blood pressure would have a little more leeway, but weight would be a driving factor as well. For example, a 5’10 male would need to weight between 129lbs to 210lbs.

This rating is 4 levels below the best rating a person can get. 

Standard Smoker

Standard rating is what most people fall into. For smokers, the only more expensive rating would be a substandard rating. 

Substandard Rates

Substandard rates occur when people have health conditions that may shorten their life expectancy, but are not so severe to deny them coverage. Examples of this could be heart disease or diabetes.

Substandard tables are split into levels (think 1,2,3/a,b,c.) For each level, general tack on an additional 25% of the standard rate. 

For example, if the standard rate is $100 per month, the rate for a substandard table 2/B would be $150.00 a month.

Are There Non-Smoker Life Insurance Rates For Smokers?

Some insurance companies all smokers to apply for non-smoker ratings for a period of time (2-3 years) as an incentive to stop smoking. This is a temporary offer and the applicant would have to prove that they’ve stopped smoking with a urine and blood test as the rate reduction time ends. 

If the insured can prove they are smoke free, then they keep the rate.

Another option, if you didn’t have plans to quit smoking when you applied is to stop smoking for two years. Then notify the insurance company. If they can verify you are nicotine free, then they may drop the smoking rating, significantly reducing your insurance costs. 

What Happens If I Can't Quit?

If you get the non-smoker rate and cannot stop smoking, the insurance company will adjust your premiums to the smoker rate at the end of the preliminary period. 

Don’t take the non-smoking rating if you don’t intend to stop smoking. Life insurance is a long term expense for your family. It’s better to have less coverage that you can afford, then drop the smoking designation and apply for additional coverage, vs taking the cheaper rate at a higher face value and lose the insurance because it jumps up 2-3x’s in costs.

Don’t be that person. Your family will thank you.

Best Life Insurance Companies For Smokers

If you're looking for the best term life insurance for smokers get a FREE INSTANT LIFE INSURANCE QUOTE, by filling out the form to your RIGHT ---> if on Desktop or hit the "Request Quote" button above if mobile.

Anyone that tells you there is a “best” insurance company out there is trying to sell you something.

Some insurance companies are more favorable to smokers, but smoking is only one portion of your overall underwriting profile. Some companies are more relaxed on smoking, but may have a more restrictive weight chart or look at your health conditions differently.

The companies below are more relaxed for smokers and offer really great rates, but look around for the best insurance company for YOU instead of a generalized “best insurance company for smokers.


Prudential has an A+ Rating from AM best and some of the best rates for smokers.

JD Power gives Prudential an "about average" rank for customer satisfaction.


Banner Life also has great rates for smokers and an A+ Rating from AM Best.

Banner does not have a JD Power rank. But it's know as one of the best Term Insurance companies


Lincoln Financial has great rates for smokers and an A+ Superior rating from AM Best.

JD Power gives Lincoln an "about average" score for customer satisfaction


AIG has really great rates for smokers and a strong financial strength rating.

However, JD Power gave AIG a "below average" score for customer satisfaction.

How To Shop Life Insurance For Smokers?

Using an independent insurance agent is truly the best way to ensure that you’re getting the absolute best value for your insurance dollar. Companies can change rates on life insurance policies and alter their underwriting at will. 

This means the company that was one of the best a year ago could have been replaced by a company you’ve never heard of.. 

You’re not an expert on life insurance. Frankly, you just want the best rate you can get and to make sure it works whenever your family needs it.

I highly suggest contacting a licensed independent life insurance agent to get the best policy to fit your needs and budget.

If you’re interested in if your work insurance is enough for you, check out this article!

What's Next?

LAST CHANCE! If you're looking for the best term life insurance for smokers get a FREE INSTANT LIFE INSURANCE QUOTE, by filling out the form to your RIGHT ---> if on Desktop or hit the "Request Quote" button above if mobile.

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