Life insurance for smokers

How does smoking affect the cost of your life insurance premiums?

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Insurance providers will ask questions to figure out whether to classify you as a smoker or nonsmoker. For life insurance providers, smokers are defined as people who are using nicotine in different forms, which include:

  • Cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Nicotine patch or gum
  • Marijuana

It doesn’t matter if you smoke casually or all the time, if you use tobacco at all you’ll be categorized as a smoker under life insurance guidelines.

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Key facts

  • Smoking not only affects your health in the long run, but can also raise your life insurance premiums.
  • Your premiums will be 2 to 3 times higher compared to a nonsmoker.
  • You’ll be eligible for a premium reduction if you’ve quit smoking for at least 12 months.

Life insurance premiums for smokers

Smokers are seen as high risk, and with that comes a more expensive premium rate than nonsmokers. Generally, these rates can be two or three times higher than the standard rate — although the exact amount will vary between providers.

Life insurance premiums for smokers are based on:

  • What type of smoker are you? Are you a casual or heavy smoker? Insurance providers will want to know how many cigarettes or packs you smoke a day because that’ll be a determining factor for the health risks you’re exposed to. This can also include the way you ingest nicotine, whether it be chewing tobacco, cigarettes, cigars or a nicotine patch.
  • How long have you been smoking? Insurance underwriters will want to know when you started smoking in order to make an accurate assessment of how risky you’ll be to insure. The longer you’ve been a tobacco user, the higher the risks for critical illnesses related to smoking.
  • When did you quit smoking? You’ll only be determined a non-smoker if you haven’t had a cigarette in the last 365 days.

Why does it take 12 months to be considered a nonsmoker?

One of the most common questions asked during life insurance application process is, “Have you used a tobacco product in the last 12 months?” That’s because insurance companies generally don’t differentiate between an occasional smoker or a pack-a-day smoker. In the eyes of the insurance companies, the health risks are basically the same and typically so are the costs of premiums.

However, if you smoke a pack a day, you may have already present health issues that can lead to more expensive rates when compared to that of a non-smoker or occasional smoker. Life insurance companies will classify your health into one of several categories.

Can I lie on my application?

You should also know that even if you declare yourself a non-smoker, an insurance company can still require you take a medical examination to confirm your claim. There might be insurance companies that’ll take your word for it, but this is rarely the case. Even if you do lie and get away with it, if the insurer finds out later they can cancel your policy or reject a future claim.

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Smoker vs. nonsmoker life insurance premiums

There’s a distinct difference when it comes to the price of life insurance premiums for a smoker or nonsmoker. For example, here’s what monthly premiums could cost for a male buying a 20 year term policy with $500,000 worth of coverage:


Why do smokers pay more for life insurance?

There are well-known risks that come with using tobacco products, and insurers charge more because the probability of paying out a life insurance benefit for a smoker is substantially increased when compared to a nonsmoker. The reasoning behind this is supported by statistics and medical evidence:

  • Smoking can have a direct correlation with heart disease, cancer and respiratory disease.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDC) state that a smoker’s life is 10 years shorter than that of a non-smoker.
  • The risk of dying from heart disease because of smoking can be tripled for a middle-aged person.

However, if you put down the smokes for good by the time you’re 40 years old, you can decrease the risk of dying from diseases related to smoking by nearly 90%.

How do life insurance providers rate different types of smokers?

Because the case of each individual applying for life insurance is unique, companies having a rating system that sorts smokers by risk. Here are the two different classifications:

  • Preferred smoker. Someone who’s a smoker — whether it be casual or habitual — but is in relatively good health. People who have just quit smoking may be lumped into this category as well.
  • Standard smoker. Someone who’s a smoker that may have high blood pressure, be overweight or have some sort of other current health related problem.

How to get affordable life insurance if you’re a smoker

The reality is that as a smoker, you’re likely to pay double or more for life insurance. It’s not ideal, but there are some steps you can take to lower your premium.

  • Kick the habit. The first and most logical step to reduce your premium — and improve your health — is to quit smoking as soon as possible. If you’ve quit for 12 months or more, life insurance providers will view you as a nonsmoker and you should be able to find cost-effective coverage.
  • Compare. It’s important to consider the different types of coverage available that has suitable features for a smoker. Once you know the type of policy that can fit your needs, shop around with different insurance providers and compare their rates, exclusions and benefits.
  • Ask around. You might have friends who are smokers with coverage that can give you some insight and suggestions. You could even find valuable information from people who have experience with life insurance providers from reviews and on forums.
  • Reassess your policy. Perhaps you bought life insurance while you were still a smoker, if you’ve quit, you should reach out to your provider and renegotiate. If they aren’t willing to lower your premiums, there’ll likely be another insurance provider that can offer you a more competitive price for coverage.
  • Ask an expert. If you don’t know where to begin, ask for help from an insurance adviser. They can explain to you the features and benefits of different life insurance plans, answer any question you might have and find coverage that fits your needs. A good insurance adviser will guide you every step of the way and look out for your well-being

Is a life insurance plan without a medical exam smart for smokers?

It’s an option that you could consider to get coverage as a smoker, however, premiums will most likely be higher compared to policies that require a medical exam. As a smoker, it’s crucial to be honest about your tobacco habits because the insurance provider can deny a claim and cancel your coverage completely if they find out you lied on the application about your smoking status.

Does smoking marijuana affect my life insurance?

This really all depends on the provider you’re looking to get insured by. Because cannabis is being legalized in many states throughout the US, you’ll find that some insurance companies have become much more lax with applicants who use weed medicinally. But, if you’re a recreational pot smoker, you may be viewed in a different light and be seen as a high-risk applicant.

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Bottom line

Getting life insurance when you’re a smoker may be challenging, but it shouldn’t stop you from being financially protected. You’ll likely pay a much higher premium if you don’t kick the habit, but the peace of mind that adequate coverage offers in the present and the benefits you’ll have in the future are invaluable.

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