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Life Insurance for Smokers

life insurance for smokers

Written By Doug Mitchell

Doug Mitchell, CLU holds a BA degree in Finance from Auburn University as well as having obtained a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from The American College in Bryn Mahr, PA.  Doug has spent close to 30 years in the insurance and financial planning industry and has held licenses to sell securities, long-term care insurance, health.  Doug is also a financial blogger addressing the topics of life insurance, annuities and retirement income planning.

Holly Mitchell  &

Holly Mitchell’s background in life insurance insurance goes back to 1985 when she worked for her father who was a New York Life agent. Holly has a marketing degree from Auburn University and has had a life insurance license since 2008. In addition to advising life insurance for customers all around the country, Holly is our website fact checker.

Rob Pinner   &

Rob Pinner is the founder and CEO of Pinner Financial Services servicing all 50 states. Rob started his insurance career in 2002.

Louis LaBash

Results-driven and innovative life insurance professional with 30 plus years of life insurance industry sales and marketing experience. Recognized as a pioneer in the field, leveraging phone and internet channels to exceed personal sales of over $100 million during the first decade of the 21st century. Creator of a highly effective intuitive IUL life insurance sales software that facilitated the sale of millions of dollars of indexed universal policies by numerous life insurance agents. Proven track record as a Managing General Agent (MGA), Life Agent, IUL Life Insurance Sales Software developer, and leading-edge creator of insurance marketing tools, educational content, and delivery systems.

Table of Contents

Life insurance offers financial security for you and your loved ones. For smokers, understanding how smoking affects life insurance premiums is essential. Generally, smokers pay higher premiums than non-smokers due to the increased health risks associated with smoking.

Smoking is considered a high-risk activity by insurance companies. This is because numerous studies have linked smoking to a variety of health issues, including heart disease, stroke, and several types of cancer. As a result, smokers statistically die earlier than non-smokers. To balance this risk, insurance companies charge higher premiums to smokers.

For example, a 30-year-old non-smoker might pay around $20 monthly for a 20-year term life insurance policy with a $500,000 payout. In contrast, a smoker of the same age and health might pay $65 or more monthly for the same policy. That’s more than three times the cost, simply due to the increased risk associated with smoking.

However, it’s important to note that all smokers are lumped into the same category. Insurance companies do not differentiate between occasional smokers, regular smokers, and heavy smokers.

Despite the higher costs, smokers must consider life insurance. The financial protection it offers can be invaluable for your loved ones in the event of your untimely death. Plus, some policies offer benefits like critical illness coverage, which can provide a payout if you’re diagnosed with a serious illness linked to smoking.

If you’re a smoker looking to reduce your life insurance premiums, there are steps you can take. Quitting smoking is the most effective way to lower your rates. Most insurance companies require you to be smoke-free for at least 12 months before they classify you as a non-smoker. 

Can I get life insurance as a smoker?

It’s important to understand that being a smoker can impact your life insurance policy in several ways. Let’s delve into this topic to provide you with a clearer picture.

Firstly, it’s crucial to know that life insurance companies categorize applicants into different risk groups based on their health and lifestyle habits. Smokers fall into a higher risk category due to the potential health risks associated with smoking. This doesn’t mean you can’t get life insurance, but it does mean that your premiums may be higher than those of a non-smoker.

For instance, let’s say John, a 30-year-old non-smoker, applies for a life insurance policy. He might be offered a premium of $30 per month. On the other hand, if Jane, also 30 but a smoker, applies for the same policy, her monthly premium might be $60. This is because the insurance company considers Jane to be at a higher risk of health issues due to her smoking habit.

However, don’t let this deter you from seeking life insurance. It’s still absolutely possible to secure a policy as a smoker. The key is to shop around. Different insurance companies have different criteria for categorizing risk; some may offer more competitive rates for smokers than others.

Moreover, it’s worth noting that honesty is the best policy when applying for life insurance. If you’re a smoker, be upfront about it. If you withhold this information and it’s discovered later, it could result in your policy being invalidated.

Lastly, remember that quitting smoking can positively impact your life insurance premiums. Many insurance companies will reevaluate your premiums if you quit smoking and maintain a smoke-free lifestyle for a certain period, typically 12 months.

 

How life insurance companies classify smokers

Life insurance companies have a unique way of classifying smokers that may seem complex, but it’s quite straightforward once you understand the criteria they use. The first thing to note is that insurers don’t just look at whether you smoke or not. They also consider the type of tobacco product you use, how often you use it, and for how long you’ve been using it.

For instance, if you smoke cigarettes, you will be classified as a smoker, regardless of the frequency. This is because cigarettes are considered high-risk due to the numerous health risks associated with them. Even if you only smoke occasionally, say at social events, you’re still likely to be classified as a smoker.

On the other hand, if you use other tobacco products like cigars or pipe tobacco, your classification can be a bit different. Some insurers may not classify you as a smoker if you only smoke cigars occasionally, while others might. Each insurance company has its guidelines for smoking cigars or pipes.

Life insurers also consider the time since you quit smoking. If you’ve quit smoking for at least a year, some insurers might classify you as a non-smoker. However, others might require you to be smoke-free for 2 years before they consider you a non-smoker.

The classification of smokers by life insurance companies is not as simple as it might seem. It involves carefully considering various factors, including the type of tobacco product used, the frequency of use, and the time since quitting. By understanding these criteria, you can better understand how you might be classified and what impact this could have on your insurance premiums.

Types of life insurance for smokers

Understanding the types of life insurance available might be overwhelming. However, it’s crucial to know that being a smoker doesn’t automatically disqualify you from obtaining life insurance. Three primary types of life insurance policies are tailored for smokers: term life insurance, whole life insurance, and final expense insurance.

Term life insurance is the most straightforward and cheapest type of life insurance for smokers. It covers a specific period, typically 10, 20, or 30 years. If the insured dies within this term, the death benefit is paid to the beneficiaries. However, it’s important to note that smokers will pay higher premiums for term life insurance than non-smokers due to the increased risk associated with smoking. For example, a 30-year-old male smoker might pay around $80 per month for a 20-year term policy with a $500,000 death benefit, while a non-smoker of the same age and health might pay around $35 per month for the same policy.

Universal life insurance is a type of permanent life insurance that combines a death benefit with a cash value component that earns interest. One of the key features of universal life insurance is its flexibility. You can adjust the premium and death benefit amounts to suit your changing needs. This type of insurance can be more expensive for smokers, but it offers the potential for cash value growth and lifelong coverage.

Whole life insurance also provides lifelong coverage and has a cash value component that grows over time. This type of policy is more expensive than term life insurance and universal. It can be a good option for smokers who want to secure permanent coverage and have the financial means to afford the higher premiums. For instance, a 30-year-old male smoker will pay over $600 per month for a whole life policy with a $500,000 death benefit.

Final expense insurance, also known as burial or funeral insurance, is a type of permanent life insurance designed to cover end-of-life expenses. This policy is typically easier to qualify for and has lower coverage amounts, making it a viable option for older smokers or those with health issues. The premiums for final expense insurance are usually more affordable than whole life insurance, but they’re still higher for smokers than for non-smokers.

While smokers will pay higher premiums for life insurance, several options are still available. Whether you choose term life, whole life, or final expense insurance depends on your needs, health status, and financial situation. It’s always a good idea to compare quotes from different insurance companies.

 

Why do smokers pay higher life insurance premiums than non-smokers?

When it comes to life insurance, it’s no secret that smokers generally face higher premiums than non-smokers. But why is this the case? The answer lies in the risk assessment that insurance companies undertake when determining your premium rates.

Smoking is widely recognized as a significant health risk. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking is linked to an increased risk of developing heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer, among other health conditions. These health risks translate into a higher likelihood of premature death, which is a significant concern for life insurance companies. After all, the earlier a policyholder dies, the sooner the insurance company has to pay out the policy.

Insurance companies classify applicants into different risk categories based on their health and lifestyle habits. These categories, often referred to as ‘risk classes,’ play a crucial role in determining your premium rates. Smokers typically fall into a ‘tobacco’ risk class, which comes with higher rates due to the increased health risks associated with smoking.

It’s important to note that the ‘smoker’ classification isn’t limited to those who smoke cigarettes. It can also include individuals who use other forms of tobacco, such as cigars, chewing tobacco, or e-cigarettes. Even occasional or social smokers will be classified as ‘smokers’ for insurance purposes.

Misrepresenting your smoking status when applying for life insurance can lead to a denial of claim, which means your beneficiaries may not receive the death benefit when you pass away. Therefore, being honest about your smoking habits is crucial when applying for life insurance.

While the higher premiums may seem unfair to smokers, it’s important to remember that life insurance companies are in the business of managing risk. The higher rates for smokers reflect these individuals’ increased risk to the insurance company. However, the good news is that many insurance companies offer incentives for smokers who quit. For example, after a certain period of being smoke-free, you may be able to reapply for life insurance and potentially secure lower premium rates.

Will life insurance rates go down if I quit smoking?

If you’re a smoker, you’ve probably heard about the numerous health benefits of quitting. But did you know that kicking the habit can also significantly impact your insurance rates and classifications? Quitting smoking can lead to substantial savings on your insurance premiums, and here’s why.

Insurance companies classify policyholders based on their risk levels. Smokers are generally considered high-risk due to the numerous health complications associated with smoking, such as heart disease, stroke, and various types of cancer. As a result, smokers often pay higher premiums for life, health, and even home insurance.

But what happens when you quit smoking? Well, once you’ve been smoke-free for a certain period, typically 12 months, many insurance companies will reclassify you as a non-smoker, leading to lower premiums. For example, a 40-year-old male smoker might pay around $800 annually for a term life insurance policy. If the same individual quits smoking, his premium could drop to around $300 per year. That’s a potential saving of $500 annually!

Quitting smoking is not just about improving your health; it’s also a smart financial move. By quitting, you’re reducing your risk of serious health issues and potentially saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on insurance premiums over the years.

Quitting smoking is a win-win situation. You improve your health, potentially live longer, and save money on insurance. So, if you’re a smoker, why not make today the day you start your journey to becoming smoke-free?

How to Find the Best Life Insurance Smoking Rates 

Finding the best life insurance smoking rates may seem difficult.. As a smoker, you may be aware that your habit can significantly impact your life insurance premiums. However, not all insurance providers view smoking in the same light, and some may offer more competitive rates than others. Here are some practical tips to help you navigate this process and find the best rates.

Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that insurance companies categorize smokers differently. Some insurers may classify you as a smoker even if you only smoke occasionally, while others may have a more lenient view. Therefore, it’s essential to be upfront about your smoking habits when applying for life insurance. Honesty will not only ensure you get an accurate quote but also prevent any complications in the future.

Next, let us help. We have access to various insurance providers and can help you compare rates and policies. We can also advise which companies are more lenient towards smokers and which ones offer the best rates.

Another practical tip is to shop around. Use the life insurance calculator on this page to get a quote.  You will be comparing all of the life insurance companies available. This will give you a better understanding of the market and help you find a policy that offers the best value for money.

Consider quitting smoking. While this may not be easy, it can significantly reduce your life insurance premiums. Most insurance companies require you to be smoke-free for at least a year before they consider you a non-smoker. However, some providers may offer reduced rates after a shorter period of abstinence.

Lastly, take care of your overall health. Aside from smoking, other factors such as your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels can also impact your life insurance rates. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can lower your premiums and increase your chances of finding the cheapest life insurance.

The Best Life Insurance Companies for Smokers

I recommend these companies first for smokers who want the most affordable life insurance rates:

Banner Life Insurance for smokers

Banner Life writes large term policies and also offers universal life insurance.

This is a simple, no-frills life insurance company that looks more favorably on smokers than most other companies.

This is especially true when smoking (or a similar habit) is your only underwriting challenge, and you’re in overall good health.

If you smoke and also have health risks like a history of cancer, COPD, or high blood pressure, you might not be as happy with the rates.

Banner’s term-life policies can provide a lot of financial protection at affordable rates — even for people who smoke.

Banner’s coverage is sold by Legal & General, its parent company.

Banner Life Pros:

  • Strong financial ratings (A+) from A.M. Best
  • Large policies at competitive rates
  • Some of the best rates around for smokers

Banner Life Cons:

  • No whole life policies
  • Available only through agents
  • Not available in New York (look for William Penn Insurance instead)

AIG for smokers

aig life insurance for smokers

This huge insurer tends to offer better-than-average rates to smokers as well as to marijuana and CBD users.

AIG’s Select-a-Term program also gives you more control over the size of your term policy, which can lead to more savings.

Along with term, AIG also writes whole life and universal life insurance policies, all through online and in-person authorized agents.

I list AIG so high on this list because of its rate reconsideration program.

If you quit smoking or using other nicotine products after you’ve finalized coverage, you can get AIG to lower your premiums after a year.

AIG Pros:

  • Strong financial ratings (A with A.M. Best)
  • Competitive rates across the board, including for smokers
  • It is particularly good for CBD and marijuana users
  • Rate reconsideration possible if you quit smoking after buying a policy

AIG Cons:

  • Below average customer service scores with NAIC and J.D. Power

Pacific Life for smokers

pacific life insurance for smokers

This highly rated insurer can offer lower-than-average term life rates for smokers because of its pricing structure.

Rather than relying exclusively on price hikes to compensate for the higher risk of smoking, Pacific Life limits term lengths for smokers by age.

For example, if you’re 50 or older you could buy a 10-year or a 20-year term but not a 30-year term.

For a non-smoker, a 55-year-old could still buy a 30-year term policy.

Pacific Life also lets you reconsider your rates after a year if you quit smoking once you have a policy in force.

Pacific Life Pros:

  • A+ rating from A.M. Best
  • Minimal complaints lodged to state authorities, according to the NAIC
  • Solid history dating back to the 1860s

Pacific Life Cons:

  • Only offers term and universal life
  • Does not sell policies online

Transamerica for smokers

transamerica life insurance company

This full-service life insurance provider can beat the average rates smokers pay — and you could skip the medical exam if you’re young enough.

Transamerica has some of the biggest term policies — up to $10 million in life insurance coverage — you’ll find.

But if you opt for the simplified issue no medical exam option, your coverage will be much lower — more like $100,000 and only if you’re younger than 70.

That said, I often steer clients in this direction when they need a smaller policy and would like to skip the medical exam — even clients who use nicotine or marijuana.

Transamerica Pros:

  • A rating from A.M. Best
  • Online shopping available
  • Rate reconsideration possible after you quit smoking

Transamerica Cons:

  • Higher than median number of complaints
  • Changing existing policies requires mailing in forms

Prudential for smokers

Prudential life insurance logo

Prudential is a well-known leader in the financial services industry.

They also happen to write more affordable than average premiums for smokers, marijuana users, and CBD users.

Among carriers on this list, Prudential also stands out because of its wide variety of insurance types.

You can find a variety of term life insurance policies, riders, and conversion options.

Prudential specializes in more complex insurance coverage such as indexed universal or variable universal life insurance.

And, Prudential — like most companies on this list — allows for rate reconsideration after a year. If you quit smoking you could lower your rates accordingly even after your coverage is in force.

Prudential Pros:

  • A+ rating from A.M. Best
  • Good rates for older shoppers (60+)
  • Accessible online

Prudential Cons:

  • Average customer satisfaction ratings

Cincinnati Life for Smokers

cincinnati life insurance for smokers

This is the kind of company an independent life insurance agent loves — a lesser-known company that can compete with the big, household names.

Cincinnati Life has been around for more than 70 years.

It specializes in customer service, and it has strong financial ratings — A+ from A.M. Best.

I list Cincinnati Life in this post because its underwriters can give you non-tobacco rates even if you have nicotine in your system from pipe or cigar use. Talk about potential savings!

Cincinnati Life also has a wide selection of policy options and stellar in-person customer service.

Cincinnati Life Pros:

  • Great for cigar, pipe tobacco users
  • Excellent customer service
  • Wide selection of policies and riders

Cincinnati Life Cons:

  • Best rates will require medical exam
  • It may take weeks to finalize the coverage

Frequently Asked Questions

Can smokers really get life insurance, and are there different rates for smokers and non-smokers?

Yes, smokers can indeed get life insurance. However, the rates for smokers are typically higher than those for non-smokers due to the increased health risks associated with tobacco use. Insurance companies classify smokers based on their tobacco usage and determine rates accordingly. It’s important for smokers to be honest about their smoking habits to ensure they get the right coverage.

How do life insurance companies classify someone as a smoker?

Life insurance companies classify someone as a smoker if they have used any tobacco products within a certain period, typically the last 12 months, although this can vary by company. This classification includes not only cigarettes but also cigars, chewing tobacco, snuff, pipes, and nicotine replacement products like patches or gum. The classification criteria may differ among insurers, so it’s wise to check with the specific provider for their definition.

What happens if I quit smoking? Does it affect my life insurance rates?

If you quit smoking, you may qualify for lower life insurance rates, but this usually depends on how long you have been smoke-free. Many insurers require you to have been nicotine-free for at least 12 months to qualify for non-smoker rates, but some may have longer requirements. It’s important to update your insurance provider on your smoking status as this could significantly affect your premiums and policy classification.

Are there any tips for smokers to get cheaper life insurance?

Yes, there are several strategies smokers can use to find more affordable life insurance:

  • Shop around: Different insurers have different policies and rates for smokers, so it pays to compare.
  • Consider term life insurance: This is often the most affordable type of life insurance and may offer competitive rates for smokers.
  • Quit smoking: While this is easier said than done, quitting smoking can significantly lower your rates after you’ve been smoke-free for a specified period.
  • Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Other factors, such as your overall health, age, and lifestyle, also affect your insurance rates. Keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and managing chronic conditions can help lower your rates.
Doug Mitchell, CLU

Doug Mitchell, CLU

Doug Mitchell, CLU holds a BA degree in Finance from Auburn University as well as having obtained a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation from The American College in Bryn Mahr, PA. Doug has spent close to 30 years in the life insurance and financial planning industry and has held licenses to sell securities, long-term care insurance, health. Some other notable items about Doug: Top of the Table Million Dollar Round Table member (MDRT). (MDRT is a global, independent association of the world’s leading life insurance advisors) | Premier Partner with Lincoln Financial and Cabinet Member | Served two years as President of the Auburn/Opelika Association of Financial Advisors | Life Millionaire status at Horace Mann Insurance Company and was awarded the Life Agent of the Year Award | New York Life, Executive Council Member | Currently serves as President of Ogletree Financial, a life insurance General Agency. | Doug is also a financial blogger addressing the topics of life insurance, annuities and retirement income planning.

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