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Life Insurance for Smokers: Rates & Eligibility

August 16, 2023
Our goal is to educate and advise on life insurance options, so you can feel confident in making the right choice, whether that’s through Quotacy or somewhere else. To ensure we provide accurate and trustworthy information, our writers follow strict editorial standards.

It’s no surprise that tobacco use can affect your health. But this doesn’t mean people who smoke can’t find an excellent life insurance policy.

There are many life insurance options available for tobacco users. The catch is, compared to non-smokers, tobacco users typically face higher rates. Life insurance companies offset the added risk of covering tobacco users by imposing higher premiums, often labeled as smoker or tobacco rates.

In this guide, learn what criteria define a smoker or tobacco user, the pricing of life insurance for smokers, and tips for getting the best rate.

Table of Contents

Understanding Life Insurance for Smokers

Insurance companies evaluate your risk level using the underwriting process to determine costs. Smokers are generally considered higher risk due to health conditions and higher mortality rates associated with smoking.

In the life insurance industry, cigarette smokers are usually categorized as tobacco users and are eligible only for tobacco rates.

However, it’s important to note that the definition of a “smoker” can extend beyond traditional cigarette use.

The following tobacco and nicotine products could also impact your life insurance rates:

Not all insurance companies treat users of these products equally, which means prices vary immensely.

If you use a tobacco or nicotine product, working with an independent broker like Quotacy is in your best interest.

We are not employed by any one insurer, but work with over 25 of the nation’s top life insurance companies. Your agent will review your application before submission to ensure you’re matched with the insurer that will give you the best rate. Your agent will let you know if there are better options.

Smoking Tobacco vs Marijuana

In recent years, numerous insurance companies have become increasingly lenient in their underwriting approach toward marijuana use. Unlike cigarette use, marijuana is not always categorized under tobacco rates.

With marijuana, insurers will pay special attention to the following:

  • How you use it (e.g., smoke, vape, edible, etc.)
  • How often you use it
  • Whether recreational or medicinal

You must be transparent about your marijuana use when applying to ensure you’re paired with the best insurance company for your specific circumstances.

How Does a Life Insurance Company Know if You Smoke?

There are several ways an insurer can determine if you use tobacco, nicotine, or marijuana products.

Policy Options and Rates for Smokers

When you apply for life insurance, an underwriter will review your entire application and the records that go along with it to determine your risk class. These risk classes directly affect your life insurance rates.

Typical risk classes for non-tobacco users:

  • Preferred classes are reserved for the healthiest individuals and offer the best pricing.
  • Standard risk classes are for people with average health and life expectancy.
  • Substandard classes are for applicants with one or more pre-existing conditions or who regularly participate in high-risk activities.

Typical risk classes for tobacco users:

  • Preferred Tobacco: Applicant uses tobacco products but otherwise is in excellent health.
  • Standard Tobacco: Applicant is in less than perfect health and regularly smokes or uses a tobacco product.

Pricing differences between non-tobacco and tobacco life insurance rates can be pretty substantial. Consider the table below.

$500,000 20-Year Term Policy for a 35-Year-Old Male
Risk ClassMonthly Rate
Preferred Plus$20.20
Standard Plus$33.76
Preferred Tobacco$82.28
Standard Tobacco$106.87

In addition, the coverage and term lengths you choose impact your final price.

Term Life Insurance Rates for Smokers
Risk Class: Preferred Tobacco, Term: 20 Years
Coverage AmountMale, 35Female, 35
Term Life Insurance Rates for Smokers
Risk Class: Preferred Tobacco, Coverage: $500K
Term LengthMale, 35Female, 35

Whole Life Insurance for Smokers

Whole life insurance is a common type of permanent life insurance. Not only does it provide lifelong coverage, but it also accumulates cash value.

Features of Whole Life Insurance

  • Coverage options range from $5,000 to millions of dollars
  • Guaranteed death benefit for policy beneficiaries
  • Cash value grows at a guaranteed rate which you can borrow against
  • Some policies pay dividends
  • Premiums are much higher compared to term life insurance

Whole life insurance can benefit those who need lifelong coverage and wish to build value over time. However, it may be unaffordable for some families.

In addition to tobacco, nicotine, or marijuana use, your age, gender, and overall health affect the cost of a whole life insurance policy. Consider the table below.

Whole Life Insurance Rates for Smokers
Risk Class: Preferred Tobacco, Coverage: $500K

Your coverage amount also impacts the price of a whole life insurance policy.

Whole life insurance is best for specialized needs, not big-ticket items. These policies are usually smaller. 

Whole Life Insurance Rates for Smokers
Risk Class: Tobacco
Coverage AmountsMale, 35Female, 35

Learn what you need to know about the differences between term life and whole life insurance.

See what you’d pay for life insurance

Comparison shop prices on custom coverage amounts from the nation’s top carriers with Quotacy.

Tips and Strategies to Get Your Best Rate

Not smoking is the best way to get the most affordable coverage.

But, of course, that’s not helpful advice in this context.

Let’s unpack some cost-saving strategies.

Work With an Independent Broker

The most effective strategy to get the best price on a life insurance policy is to shop around. However, this can be incredibly time-consuming if you do it solo. Work with an experienced broker that can help you shop the market to get quotes from insurers that may have more favorable terms for tobacco users.

Adjust Your Policy Terms

If the quotes you receive from insurers are still too high for your budget, you can try adjusting your coverage or term length to find a more affordable option.

Unsure how much life insurance you need? Try our life insurance calculator.

The Cost of Life Insurance for Ex-Smokers

Ex-smokers may be eligible for non-tobacco rates, but the number of tobacco-free years required to qualify can vary between insurers.

While some insurance companies may consider offering non-tobacco rates just 12 months after you’ve quit, others might require as many as five years without tobacco use.


Anna and Jane are siblings and decide to quit smoking together. One year later, they both independently decide to buy life insurance to protect their families.

Jane works with a broker who finds her an insurer that offers non-tobacco rates after just one year without smoking. Her life insurance policy costs $29.33 per month.

Anna, on the other hand, goes through her neighbor, a captive insurance agent. Unfortunately, the insurance company the agent represents requires five tobacco-free years to qualify for non-tobacco rates. Despite having the same coverage as Jane, Anna’s monthly premium is significantly higher at $96.89.

This scenario is another reason why working with a broker is the best way to find favorable pricing. A knowledgeable broker understands these variations and can match you with the insurer who has more forgiving guidelines for tobacco-free years.

FAQs: Smoking and Life Insurance

Finding affordable life insurance as a smoker can be challenging. Here we answer some common questions which may help you during the buying process.

What If I Buy a Policy as a Smoker and Later Quit?

If you initially receive tobacco rates but later decide to quit smoking, you can reapply for a non-tobacco policy. If approved, your life insurance rates will be adjusted.

However, other factors in your life could negatively impact your rates, even if you quit smoking.

Consider the following:

  • If your health worsens, your rates may not decrease.
  • Another medical exam will likely be required to prove you’re smoke-free.
  • Some insurers consider you smoke-free after 12 months and some require up to five years.

Never cancel a policy until you have a new one 100% inforce.

What If I Start Smoking After Getting Life Insurance?

If you buy a life insurance policy at non-tobacco rates and then begin smoking, don’t worry; it won’t change your current coverage or the death benefits.

As long as you were truthful on your initial application, carriers cannot retroactively penalize you for smoking after securing coverage – no matter what.

Can Claims Be Denied if the Insured Smokes?

Insurers cannot deny a claim because you started smoking after obtaining coverage.

As long as you accurately reported your smoking status on your application, the insurer must honor the initial terms.

What If You Lie About Smoking?

Tobacco use will be detected in the urine test, a standard part of the medical exam.

If you lie on your life insurance application and say you’ve never used tobacco, you’re hiding a significant health factor, which is insurance fraud.

Some or all of your policy’s death benefits may be withheld from your beneficiaries.

Should You Delay Buying Life Insurance If You’re Trying to Quit?

You shouldn’t delay buying life insurance if you’re trying to quit smoking.

Getting coverage as soon as needed is the best course of action. Your health could worsen, which means your rates won’t decrease. Or you could get in a car accident tomorrow.

Protect your family now. If you quit smoking later, you can reapply to lower your rates. 

Compare Life Insurance Quotes for Smokers and Apply Today

Life insurance is purchased by smokers every day. The process doesn’t need to be complicated or overwhelming.

At Quotacy, we are dedicated to matching you with the right life insurance product and company for your situation. By understanding your specific needs, we aim to secure the best price possible.

Don’t leave it to guesswork; explore your options and get free, anonymous term life insurance quotes today. Take control of your future by making an informed decision that suits your lifestyle.

Note: Life insurance quotes used in this article are accurate as of August 16, 2023. These are only estimates and your life insurance costs may be higher or lower.

Watch the Tobacco and Life Insurance Video


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