Updated by: Bennett Bier, Expert Life Insurance Agent
Let’s be clear before we start. Everything else being equal, smokers life insurance does have higher premiums than life insurance for non-smokers. However, there are some caveats to that which we will explore in this article. For example, the type of smoking (or tobacco use) can be looked at drastically differently by individual companies.
What Type of Tobacco Do You Use?
Different smoking or tobacco methods are viewed differently by different life insurance companies.
- Chewing tobacco/Snuff/Snus
- Vaping and electronic cigarettes
- Nicotine patch/Nicotine gum
Why Smokers Life Insurance is More Expensive
Statistically speaking, cigarette smokers die earlier than non-smokers and that’s really what it all boils down to.
According to the American Cancer Society:
“More Americans will die from smoking cigarettes than alcohol, automobile accidents, HIV, guns, and illegal drugs combined.”
And it’s not just lung cancer we’re talking about.
Smoking contributes to:
- COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Increased chance of clot formation in your blood.
- Heart damage. Smokers have double the chance of suffering a heart attack compared to non-smokers.
- Increased chance (up to 50% higher) of having a stroke.
- Weak bones. Women who smoke are much more likely to develop osteoporosis in their lifetime.
- And the big one, of course – cancer. According to studies by the National Cancer Institute, “Smoking causes cancers of the lung, esophagus, larynx, mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, liver, pancreas, stomach, cervix, colon, and rectum, as well as acute myeloid leukemia.”
Okay, you already know that smoking is unhealthy. Now you have a short list of reasons why tobacco premiums are higher than non-tobacco.
Life insurance premiums are based on your:
- Health history
- Life history (the type of work you do, hobbies, recreational activities, etc.)
The bean counters that set insurance premiums use these factors to determine the likelihood of a person dying before their next birthday. The higher the probability of a claim, the higher the premium.
Life Insurance Rates For Smokers
Outside of age, tobacco usage impacts life insurance more than any other factor. If you’ve spent any time looking for quotes, smoking is always one of the critical questions asked.
Life insurance for smokers will often be 2 to 5 times more expensive than for non-smokers.
Below are the rates for smokers for various ages and policy types. Don’t let rates scare you away from investing in life insurance. You can quit and have the policy rewritten or re-rated after you have been tobacco-free for various lengths of time.
|Age||Policy Type||Face Value||Male Rate||Female Rate|
|35||10 Year Term||$500,000||$56/mo.||$46/mo.|
|20 Year Term||$500,000||$88/mo.||$73/mo.|
|30 Year Term||$500,000||$145/mo.||$104/mo.|
|45||10 Year Term||$500,000||$132/mo.||$99/mo.|
|20 Year Term||$500,000||$209/mo.||$163/mo.|
|30 Year Term||$500,000||$347/mo.||$249/mo.|
|55||10 Year Term||$500,000||$309/mo.||$212/mo.|
|20 Year Term||$500,000||$212/mo.||$363/mo.|
|30 Year Term||$500,000||Not available||Not available|
Make sure to discuss with your agents these options. Also if you are an occasional cigar/pipe smoker many companies will offer a non-smoking rate.
Different Life Insurance Policies for Tobacco Users
Smoker rates are further broken down to Preferred tobacco and Standard tobacco. Preferred will be better priced than Standard, of course, but even Preferred tobacco rates are considerably higher than Standard Non-tobacco. That will be the case regardless of which insurance company we’re pricing.
For example, here is the lowest pricing currently available for a 40-year-old male at Standard Non-tobacco rates for a $500k 30-year term policy.
And here is the same guy rated at Preferred Tobacco.
More than double the price. Ouch! It looks like insurance companies do not like smokers. Don’t take it personally, though – it’s just that the likelihood of paying out a death claim sooner is much higher. The longer a life insurance policy is in force means the longer the company is receiving the premium payments for that policy. Premiums paid are one of the many moving parts which allow an insurance company to be profitable. And make no mistake, insurance companies are in business to make a profit.
Then again, so is your local grocery store.
Not All Smoking or Tobacco Habits are Equal
Yes, it’s true. Insurance companies all have their own guidelines under which they operate. There is no one-size-fits-all book of instructions which they all share. This is fantastic because it opens up certain opportunities for some situations.
Different smoking or tobacco methods as viewed by life insurance companies.
- Chewing tobacco/Snuff/Snus
- Vaping and electronic cigarettes
- Nicotine patch
- Nicotine gum
Life Insurance for Cigarette Smokers
Of this list, only cigarette smoking is always going to be subjected to tobacco rates. There is simply no way around it. If you apply for a fully-underwritten life insurance policy part of the underwriting process is a medical exam (commonly known as a paramed). This exam consists of a nurse recording your height and weight, taking your blood pressure, drawing a vial of your blood, collecting a urine sample and asking you a bajillion health questions. There can be more to it but those are the basic parameters that insurance underwriters will require.
The nicotine from the cigarettes will be present in both the urine sample and the blood (actually it is cotinine at that point but let’s not get into the science). When the underwriting department gets the results of your test, the ‘tobacco rates’ will automatically be applied.
If you apply for a policy that does not require the paramed exam (commonly known as a Non-Med policy), there will still be a question on the application regarding tobacco use. Something along the lines of:
In the past 12 months, has the Proposed Insured used any form of tobacco, or any form of nicotine replacement such as a patch, gum, or electronic cigarettes?
So you get dinged that way too.
Footnote: Don’t get cute and say ‘No’ to that question if it should be ‘Yes’. For one, that would be considered insurance fraud which could result in serious consequences. For two, the insurance company could rightfully deny the death claim outright or adjust it to what your premiums would have actually bought based on tobacco rates. Either way your beneficiary would not receive the expected death benefit.
Life Insurance for Cigar Smokers
The occasional use of cigars may or may not be cause for higher tobacco rates. Again, every company operates under their own guidelines and the definition for occasional can vary greatly.
For example, American General (AIG) will allow Standard non-tobacco rates for cigar use of no more than one cigar per week and no cotinine present in the urine and blood. Lincoln Financial, on the other hand, will allow Standard non-tobacco rates for cigar use of no more than 1 cigar per month. However, Lincoln Financial will also offer Preferred non-tobacco rates to a cigar smoker who qualifies, based on all of their other underwriting factors.
Important to note – The cigar usage must be admitted to on the application or during the paramed exam. No cotinine present in exam and no other type of tobacco use allowed.
Yes, it gets confusing. Don’t try to to do this on your own. Well, you can… but it may cost you thousands of dollars over the long run. Your call.
I am only using these companies as a reference for the cigar subject. They are not meant as recommendations. There are many other factors that come into play as every person I talk with has a different set of circumstances.
Life Insurance for Pipe Smokers
Very similar to the cigar outline. Different companies, different guidelines. (Are you starting to pick up a recurring theme in all of this?)
To stick with the companies used in the cigar scenario, American General will only offer Standard tobacco rates to pipe smokers. Lincoln Financial will allow Standard non-tobacco rates but will not offer Preferred non-tobacco rates as they will for cigars. Kind of odd.
Again, it’s worth your while to work with someone who can pick apart the intricacies of all the different insurance companies. Wouldn’t you think?
Life Insurance and Chewing Tobacco or Snuff
Choices grow even more limited with smokeless tobacco such as chew, dip or snuff.
There have been studies which suggest that smokeless tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes. There are also studies which state that both are equally dangerous, albeit in different ways. Regardless, the vast majority of insurance companies classify them the same for their underwriting purposes. Meaning, if you chew you will only qualify for smoker’s rates.
That being said, a couple of companies will bend a bit here and earn the title of Chew-Friendly life insurance outfits.
- Lincoln Financial (again) will offer Standard non-tobacco rates for chewing tobacco.
- John Hancock will offer Standard non-tobacco rates as well. They refer to it as Standard Non-Smoker.
- Prudential will offer Non-Smoker Plus rates for chewing tobacco. This is a step up from basic Standard rates, therefore, a lower premium. We like lower premiums! Still not as attractive as a Preferred rate but darn good for tobacco use. Prudential will also make this rate class available to cigar and pipe users.
Important footnote: Regardless of the company, all the other underwriting guidelines must be met to qualify for these non-tobacco rates as well. In other words, if your blood pressure is through the roof and your total cholesterol is over 400 you will not receive a Standard non-tobacco rate. Even if you only dip once a week or only smoke a cigar on your birthday and the 4th of July.
Life Insurance and Vaping or Electronic Cigarettes (E-cigs)
Things get a bit curious (in a bad way, premium-wise) with these Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems. It’s the nicotine in tobacco that gets a person hooked on (addicted to) cigarettes and chew. However, the nicotine in and of itself is not the chemical that creates all of the health issues for smokers. It’s the tar and carcinogens (and multiple other poisons which are hard to pronounce) which contribute to that.
Vaping and e-cigs don’t produce the nasty substances that are found in combustible tobacco products. That doesn’t seem to matter, though, as this method of nicotine use is almost universally treated as cigarette use by life insurance companies. Other than Foresters Financial I am not aware of any company that will offer anything but smoker rates to folks who vape currently. Even the companies listed above that look kindly upon cigars, pipes and chewing tobacco will frown upon vapes and e-cigs.
So, if you fall into this category, Foresters Financial is your play. They will offer the Non-Smoker rate category shown above. Although sometimes a smoker rate with specific carriers can be lower cost.
Life Insurance and Nicotine Patches or Gums
Same as just about everything else we’ve covered in this article – these products are subject to individual company guidelines. Prudential is an easy go-to; John Hancock as well. Maybe.
How to Find The Best Life Insurance for Smokers
Just talk to an agent. Life’s too short to try to figure this all out on your own. Plus, it doesn’t cost you a penny to put us to work for you to find smokers life insurance.
Simply complete the instant quote form on this page to see rates and a life insurance agent will find the best rates on your behalf.
As principal licensed life insurance agent Bennett Bier has helped 1000’s of people purchase life insurance online & over the phone. During his career he has become the go to expert for securing hard to place term and permanent life insurance policies for clients across the nation. With his wealth of knowledge of each life insurance carrier’s products and underwriting he provides honest answers and advice to every client. Bennett Bier and his team will work tirelessly to successfully secure the coverage your family deserves.
All content on this site has been written by life insurance experts & licensed life insurance agents.