Smoking can triple the cost of life insurance, so smokers have to be extra careful when they shop for coverage.
Smokers have less room for error because they have fewer realistic choices for affordable life insurance. The same is often true if you vape, smoke marijuana, or have recently quit smoking.
It’s not personal, it’s business: Using tobacco puts you at a greater risk for health problems and premature death, so life insurers have to charge higher premiums.
In this post, I’ll explore ways people who use tobacco and other products can still get affordable life insurance to protect their loved ones.
The Best Life Insurance Companies for Smokers
I recommend these companies first for smokers who want the most affordable life insurance rates:
Banner Life: Best All-Around for Smokers
Banner Life writes large term policies and also offers universal life insurance.
This is a simple, no-frills life insurance company, and it happens to look 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 that 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: Best for Term Variety
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 and universal life insurance policies, all through online and in-person authorized agents.
Don’t confuse AIG with AIG Direct, a related company that offers only guaranteed issue whole life — a product that’s a last resort for many shoppers.
AIG Direct is easy to come across online since it has an online application process.
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.
- Strong financial ratings (A with A.M. Best)
- Competitive rates across the board, including for smokers
- Particularly good for CBD and marijuana users
- Rate reconsideration possible if you quit smoking after buying a policy
- Below average customer service scores with NAIC and J.D. Power
Pacific Life: Best for Variety of Coverage
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.
Like AIG, 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:
- All policies require a medical exam
- Does not sell policies online
Transamerica: Best for No Medical Exams
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.
- A rating from A.M. Best
- Online shopping available
- Rate reconsideration possible after you quit smoking
- Higher than median number of complaints
- Changing existing policies requires mailing in forms
Prudential: Best for Universal Policies
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.
- A+ rating from A.M. Best
- Good rates for older shoppers (60+)
- Accessible online
- Average customer satisfaction ratings
Cincinnati Life: Best for Pipe & Cigar 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 coverages require medical exam
- It may take weeks to finalize the coverage
Why Smoking Affects Your Life Insurance Rates
Statistics show smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Smoking is linked to a variety of deadly medical conditions such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, and lung diseases — and for every person who dies from a smoking-related disease, 20 more people suffer from at least one serious illness from smoking.
Our analysis found a 45-year-old man who smokes cigarettes could pay as low as $289 a month for a 20-year term policy with $500,000 in coverage. The average premium is about $300.
If the same man didn’t smoke, his monthly premium could drop to as low as $52, with the average at around $80.
That’s almost four times as much higher for the smoker. That difference of $220 per month could buy a lot more life insurance for a non-smoker.
Term life insurance rates are at least 50% higher for tobacco users, and most insurers will include e-cigarettes, smokeless tobacco, cigars, pipe smoking, and other forms of nicotine use that don’t require inhaling tobacco smoke in those higher rates.
Whole life insurance rates can be about 20% higher for smokers.
How Different Kinds of Smoking Affects Rates
Insurance underwriters can consider a wide variety of tobacco — and even non-tobacco — products when they determine your eligibility for coverage and how much you’ll pay in premiums.
Most insurance companies consider using the following products higher risk activities:
All of these habits can impact your insurance rates differently, so let’s take a closer look.
Among all forms of tobacco and similar products, cigarettes still cause the most serious documented health conditions, including cancer, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and pneumonia.
Cigarettes also have been linked to more general problems such as high blood pressure which can shorten your life.
With these kinds of serious illnesses connected to cigarettes, it’s no wonder life insurance companies charge higher premiums for smokers and why quote boxes like the one on this page have a question about tobacco use.
Some people wonder why they can’t just check “no” when they apply for coverage or get a quote. Doing so could save hundreds of dollars a year in premiums, right?
Doing this would also constitute insurance fraud, and it would prevent your family from claiming your death benefit which is the entire purpose of having coverage.
And, the underwriting process includes blood and urine tests which would reveal tobacco use by showing nicotine or cotinine in your system, so it’s not as simple as answering a yes or no question.
Looking for More Nuance
Other applicants ask whether there’s any room for nuance in the underwriting process when it comes to cigarettes, and the answer is yes.
Within the larger puzzle of your application, your overall health, your occupation, your family’s health history, your age and gender, your coverage type, and several other factors, will work together to determine your rate.
Depending on your overall situation, you’ll find some companies who look more favorably on your tobacco status. An independent insurance agency like ours can help connect you with the right company.
What About Social Smoking?
Another source of nuance arises for applicants who have recently quit smoking or who smoke only occasionally.
To get non-tobacco life insurance rates, most companies require at least one and often two years without smoking. A few companies also look more favorably on occasional (sometimes called social) smokers.
Again, an independent insurance agent in your area or online can help you navigate this process quickly and efficiently.
Most of the companies on my best list above let you claim lower rates by quitting your habit after finalizing coverage.
Cigars and/or Pipes
Compared to cigarette smokers, cigar and pipe smokers can have an easier time finding non-tobacco rates, but it’s not always a slam dunk.
You’ll definitely need to have a clarifying conversation with your insurer because insurance companies still default to classifying cigar and pipe smokers as tobacco users, even though cigars and pipes aren’t directly related to as many health hazards.
By clarifying that you do not smoke cigarettes, you should be able to qualify for a non-tobacco rate if you also:
- Back-Up Your Claim in the Exam: Your medical exam will be key to confirming your tobacco use. If you smoke pipe tobacco once or twice a year, don’t do so the night before your test.
- Use Only as Allowed: If you get approved for a non-smoking rate contingent upon smoking only one cigar a month, be sure to follow those guidelines.
- Find the Right Carrier: Insurance companies have different approaches to the use of cigars and pipes. Companies like Banner Life, AIG, Prudential, and Voya traditionally offer avenues for lower premiums.
Smokeless Tobacco Products
Life insurance applicants who use chewing tobacco, or other smoke-free tobacco products such as snuff or dip, will face a similar scenario as people who smoke cigars or pipes.
Your insurer will classify you as a tobacco user unless you clarify your tobacco use as strictly smokeless and follow the same guidelines:
- confirming your claim in the health exam
- using only as your policy allows
- finding the right insurance carrier
Smokeless tobacco is still dangerous: These products have been connected to mouth, throat, and tongue cancer.
If you’ve already experienced these kinds of illnesses, you’ll have a much harder time qualifying for non-tobacco rates.
The jury’s still out on how vaping affects life insurance rates, but there’s a really good chance they will make your rates higher.
Part of the mystery centers on how little we know about the long-term health effects of vaping. It’s still a relatively new technology.
While vaping does not put toxic smoke inside your lungs, there are other health-related factors such as:
- Nicotine: The delivery method is different, but vaping still delivers nicotine which is harmful to your health.
- Other substances: Vaping puts users in contact with the juice, metals, and a chemical reaction. Further study will be needed to determine the impact these substances could have on users’ health.
More and more insurers are responding to the mystery of vaping by raising insurance rates. Still, you shouldn’t expect to pay full-on tobacco rates.
To avoid tobacco rates, you’ll need to have a clarifying conversation with your underwriters. Your independent life insurance agent can help guide you through this process.
Marijuana use has become more socially (and legally) acceptable in many parts of the country. Still, not all life insurance companies have adopted this philosophy.
Marijuana use is still a hazy area. Some carriers look more favorably on marijuana use than others. Ultimately, your goal should be to stay in a non-tobacco classification.
Achieving this can be difficult. It will depend on how often and why you use marijuana. Ironically, recreational users have an easier time qualifying than medical marijuana users.
Why? Because medical use indicates a deeper, chronic illness which will, by itself, cause underwriters more concern.
But even recreational users who smoke frequently will have a more difficult time finding lower-cost coverage.
Again, just like with cigarettes, fully disclosing your habits is a necessity, both legally and for the good of your beneficiary who may someday file a claim. And be assured: Any information you share on an insurance application will remain private.
Nicotine Replacement Therapies
If you’re using nicotine patches or nicotine gum to help you stop smoking, good for you. These products have helped hundreds of thousands of people stop smoking.
Nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) such as these still impact life insurance rates. For one, they indicate you have been a smoker. If you quit only recently — within the past couple years, for example — you may not yet qualify for non-tobacco rates.
But chances are good using a nicotine replacement therapy will help your case. As with other habits we’ve discussed in this post, you’ll just need to be upfront about your use of NRTs and seek guidance from an independent life insurance agent to find the best rates in the marketplace.
Obtaining an Affordable Rate as a Smoker or Recent Non-Smoker
To start off, it’s critical to find the right representative and the insurance company. Don’t simply fill out a life insurance application and hope for the best.
While a life insurance representative is not someone you talk to every day, this is one of those “seldom seen” but pivotal relationships.
You can certainly call the state and national providers 1-800 numbers to start gathering quotes, but there’s a better way, and that’s why we are here.
We make it easy to get the largest number of competitive life insurance quotes for smokers and recent ex-smokers around, so you can compare the best life insurance companies rates for you and your family.
Let’s look at some different situations, some of the companies to expect and the prices you’ll be looking at:
30-year-old male smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage for a 20-year term
In this case here are the top 3 Quotes:
- Banner: $50.53 Per Month
- Transamerica: $50.75 Per Month
- SBLI: $54.81 Per Month
40-year-old smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage over the same 20-year term
Top 3 Quotes:
- Transamerica: $92.75 Per Month
- Banner: $95.59 Per Month
- ING: $99.31 Per Month
50-year-old smoker looking for $250,000 of coverage over the same 20-year term
Top 3 Quotes:
- Transamerica: $221.16 Per Month
- Banner: $223.78 Per Month
- American General: $225.01 Per Month
These examples provide a great case for why it’s best to work with an independent broker and get as many quotes as possible.
As you may have noted, the rates cited above show that the same company may not always provide the best price from one age bracket to another, and it’s no wonder.
As we’ve noted elsewhere on this blog, finding the best price is dependent on a variety of factors including age, coverage amount, lifestyle, family medical history, such as a history of cancer, and any other health factors and/or pre-existing medical conditions as well.
Choosing to go with a company that offers a policy that does not require a medical exam will also lead to higher rates.
The bottom line is, when it comes to finding life insurance for smokers or recent ex-smokers it’s important to get as many quotes as possible and compare them until you find the best price for you and your family.
And while comparing is an easy first step, understanding the “fine print” is equally important. Ok, so let’s say you’ve gone through the process, gotten a number of quotes and for whatever reason, the rates provided are still too high for your budget.
Can You Lower Your Costs?
At first glance, you might be worried that you can’t get affordable life insurance as a smoker. Think again.
Here are some tips to help you reduce those costs:
Reducing the Term Length
It may be the length of the life insurance that is the culprit. In this case, you can save money by going with a shorter term.
You have to balance the budget as well as finding the right term length that works best for you and your family.
Reducing the Coverage Amount
The first thing to consider when trying to bring down your life insurance premiums as a smoker or recent ex-smoker is to take a good look at how much life insurance you would really need to leave behind for your family, and for how many years it will be used?
A good place to start is by calculating the normal operating costs of your household, the remaining amount of your home mortgage that needs to be paid off, or other factors including your children’s future college education, etc.
Next, create a concrete list of what is important for you and your family and how much coverage is absolutely necessary and for how long based on the duration of those debts and the current interest rates being paid on those debts.
Such an exercise may reveal that you actually need less coverage than you originally thought, and could help with saving money in the long run.
Renewing Your Term Every Year
While this is not a viable long term solution, those interested in life insurance for a short amount of time, or for those on a tighter monthly budget may consider the annual renewable term.
Be aware that initially this may be the cheapest route, but over time the rate will increase every year. As such, it’s a good idea to get into a longer-term or permanent life policy sooner than later.
Consider Quitting Smoking
If quitting smoking in the near future is part of the plan, that’s great news. In that case, and you are serious about it, but still want to get life insurance now, it might be good to consider opting for a short term policy.
This way you can apply for a long term policy with better terms once you are not smoking and no longer have to pay the higher rates associated.
Remember that every additional year you remain tobacco-free and retested as such means your rates will continue to get better. After a year of not smoking, you will usually get the Standard Non-Tobacco Rate which is great news.
What’s more, after 3 years of not smoking, you will be eligible for the best possible rates as a non-smoker.
To quit smoking and get a non-smoker insurance rate, a smoker will have to quit for at least a year, and sometimes as long as five years. Once they get the lower rate after quitting smoking, policyholders aren’t required to be tested again for nicotine.
For smokers who want to quit this expensive and deadly habit, they’re not alone. The CDC reports that approximately 69% of smokers want to quit completely, and 55% of smokers attempt to quit each year (about 7% of those succeed).
That can add up to a lot fewer packs of cigarettes being bought, and a lot more ex-smokers possibly getting lower life insurance rates.
Improve Your Health
The better health you’re in, the better the results from the medical exam, which is going to translate into more money saved.
First, start a healthy diet and stick to it.
Eliminating junk food and replacing it with healthier options, this is going to have positive impacts on your health. It can lower your weight, lower your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol.
But if you are overweight, you call still obtain quotes from companies who offer the best life insurance for obese individuals.
Next, start getting regular exercise.
Just like a diet, it’s going to have a positive impact on your health, which is going to mean better results from the medical exam. You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get better insurance premium rates.
Because each insurer looks at smoking through such a different lens, we suggest taking the time to call us in order to find the company that is best matched to your personal use of tobacco.
It may not seem like a huge deal now, but if these extra few steps gets a larger payout for your loved ones and a lower ongoing premium for you, it’ll all be worth it.