Best Life Insurance Plans And Companies For Smokers

Written by Jeff Root

Every applicant for term life insurance gets rated by the company they are seeking the insurance from. A rating is how much risk is taken on, by the insurance company for any given applicant. The three criteria to begin the rating process are: age, gender and use of tobacco.

As a rule, life insurance for smokers is attainable, though the premium will be higher in general, than that of a non-smoker.

Using any type of tobacco will increase life insurance premiums, many times double it, or even triple it. Does that mean there are no companies out there that offer a more reasonable life insurance rates for smokers? Of course not – some companies do have a more liberal rating structure.

The criteria used to rate smokers is basically the same across the insurance industry, but there are some differences from company to company.

What You Need To Know About Smoking And Life Insurance

While there is not any one way life insurance companies treat smokers, there are far fewer smokers out there, in general, than twenty years ago. Also to note, vaping and E-Cigarettes are becoming more popular and their use while on the rise is mostly an unknown at this point.

The research on how tobacco and tobacco products affect people has shown that tobacco use in general; creates definite health risks, can be addictive and cause major illnesses. That type of data was not available 30, or even 20 years ago.

Life insurance companies try their best to be on the cutting edge of health research. Life is as much their business as is death. Keeping a person alive longer, keeps the revenue flowing and has a positive impact on the industry overall.

Mostly due to the studies, the guidelines for smokers are generally becoming more relaxed. However, life insurance rates for smokers are still quite high compared with non-smokers.

Why Do Smokers Pay More, Than Non-Smokers?

Smokers have a tendency to die sooner than non-smokers. The insurance companies are betting that you will not be able to make as many payments as a non-smoker. That is the plain truth.

The longer version is, smoking is a risk that the life insurance carrier is unable to track accurately, except smoking causes grave illness, which usually means an early death.

The CDC states that smokers are three times more likely to die than a similar person with the same attributes who does not smoke. Premature death is more likely in someone who smokes.

Smokers are more prone to getting these three major diseases:

  •  Cancer, (mainly of the lungs, throat, mouth and larynx)
  •  Respiratory disease (Emphysema leading to COPD)
  •  Heart disease.

For these reasons and others, life insurance companies will always rate a smoker as higher risk than a non-smoker.  As a result, life insurance for smokers is more expensive.

How Much Do Smokers Pay For Life Insurance?

Smokers can expect to pay substantially higher life insurance rates than non-smokers, depending on how much and what type of tobacco is used. Just finding nicotine in the blood causes the rate to increase.

Today, there are cheek swab kits to determine the level of nicotine and other chemicals in a person’s system. Although rates vary, smokers can pay up to double or triple what a non-smoker pays.

Here is a chart of approximate Preferred Rates for Smokers and Non-Smokers. This chart shows the monthly rates for a healthy, 35 year old male looking for a term life insurance policy.

Face Value Smoker Rate Non-Smoker Rate
$100,000 $18.73/mo. $8.08/mo.
$250,000 $31.39/mo. $11.61/mo.
$500,000 $55.47/mo. $17.63/mo.
$1,000,000 $96.32/mo. $28.89/mo.

What Other Tobacco Users Are Also Considered Smokers

To answer this question first we must look at the types of tobacco use, and see how the insurance companies view each type.

One of the important considerations carriers have is defining a smoker. Let’s have a look at the different types of tobacco used:


The most common form of tobacco use in the United States. This type of tobacco use is considered the most risky, and therefore no carrier will issue a non-smoker rate for this type of tobacco use. Also, many carriers require that you have ceased smoking at a minimum of one whole year before they will consider you a non-smoker, many other companies require at least 2 years.

Cigars, Pipes

Under this category, you will find cigars, cigarillos and many times pipes. Pipes fall into this category because the use of a pipe is similar to that of a cigar. The way the tobacco is delivered is a pertinent consideration. This type of tobacco use can cause cancer of the throat and oral cavity, and that can be linked to other types of cancers and so is given a smoker rating.

E-Cigarettes and Vaping

A somewhat newer and sometimes confusing type of smoker. The delivery of this type of tobacco product is directly from a liquid laced with nicotine and no one is quite sure if it’s better or worse than smoke from a tobacco-filled cigarette. Many companies are rating this type of smoking up there with cigarettes.


For many years marijuana had been ignored by the health research sector, due to the stigma surrounding its use. Recently studies have shown the medicinal properties of the drug, and its base chemical compound THC. Insurance companies are now more likely to rate this as a smoker because the side – effects of the drug can be just as damaging as cigarettes. Farther into this article, we take an in depth look at how life insurance companies view marijuana usage. It is becoming a major player in insurance circles in recent years.


Covering patches and gums, Nicotine Replacement Therapies have been around for some time. The delivery of nicotine through the skin, or chewed, is thought to be damaging to the body (as with all ingestion of nicotine in general) in ways not fully understood yet. Studies have shown there is an increased risk of oral cancer, and sometimes melanoma has developed, but neither could be linked directly to the NRT specifically. Carriers also classify this type of tobacco use as smoking.

Can You Pass A Medical Test By Not Smoking A Few Weeks Before Being Tested?

Many smokers think if they just wait a period of time the nicotine level in the body will drop and then dissipate completely.  That is true, to a point, a couple of days won’t matter and here’s why.

When someone smokes the nicotine that is ingested is absorbed into the blood and broken down into cotinine. This chemical can be detected in the bloodstream for up to three months. That is a long time, and the average smoker – who wants to smoke – would see that length of time as actually quitting the smoking habit.

Although it would seem as though the body could absorb the nicotine within days, actually the residual amounts of cotinine remain for many months and can be detected through the blood, hair, saliva, and urine.

The amount of nicotine in your system depends on how much was ingested. If ingestion was once a week, then trace amounts of nicotine could dissipate as soon as three days. If you are a heavy smoker, especially cigarettes, then nicotine can be found as long as a year after cessation.

In order to fudge the nicotine test, a regular smoker would need a minimum of 3 months cessation for the body to not show residual amounts of nicotine.

The fact is, if you say you don’t smoke and have never smoked, and you are a smoker, that is insurance fraud. And that is a big deal. While many companies will overlook that lie, the fact remains it is a fraud.

Being a smoker is far different today than it was only ten years ago, and the climate of discouragement is only gaining strength. From the point of view of the insurance companies and the research done on the topic of smoking shows, without doubt, admit to tobacco use, if you are a user, even if it’s only occasional use. In the long run, it will pay off.

What Are The Best Companies For Smokers?

Most people agree that the insurance companies presented here have some of the best rates for smokers. Bear in mind that life insurance companies are becoming more relaxed in their rating process, in an overall sense. And a carrier’s protocol, process, and determinations are based on their own individual criteria.  Classifications vary across insurers.

The best companies for smokers that require a medical exam:

Company Our Rating Approval Time
Banner Life Best 3-6 weeks
Pacific Life Very Good 3-6 weeks
AIG Very Good 6-12 weeks

The best companies for smokers with no medical exam required:

Company Our Rating Approval Time
SBLI Best 10-30 days
North American (NA) Very Good Same Day Approval (Most)
Sagicor Very Good 3-14 days

Rates vary for each individual’s; situation, overall health, and qualifications when applying for traditional or no exam life insurance.

Best Life Insurance Companies For Marijuana Smokers

Company Marijuana Treatment Risk Rating
Lincoln National Preferred Plus if used less than once a month socially, or Preferred if used two times a week in social situations Non-Tobacco
Prudential Plus rating can be attained for use up to three times a week. Must admit to use during the application process. A positive THC result in the urine test does not affect rating Non-Tobacco
MetLife Standard rating for marijuana use up to four time per week, with the opportunity to attain a Preferred, Elite, or Elite Plus rating with no alcohol abuse or anxiety issues Non-Tobacco

The use of marijuana is starting to move into acceptance and legalization throughout the country. Many states have legalized it, and many investors are cashing in the growth of this fledgling market. The life insurance industry is following suit, with some caveats.

Most whole insurance companies take a conservative view of marijuana use. The health classification for marijuana can often be the same as a smoker. Studies are ongoing as to whether smoking marijuana is healthier than cigarettes, so the life insurance carriers are taking a more causal opinion on marijuana use.

Something to watch out for is how the insurance company rates the use of pot. Medicinal marijuana is meant to treat serious symptoms of specific illnesses. If the insurer deems your condition as not serious, they will classify the use as recreational and charge a smoker rate.

Bearing in mind that insurance companies have recently been more accommodating in their rating of marijuana users. Have a look at these forward-looking companies, offering non-tobacco status for marijuana use.

One of the main issues surrounding marijuana and drug use, in general, is trying to lie at the time of application. The truth is, if you lie and you are discovered, then you are rejected for life insurance, it goes on the record. You will be rejected by all other companies’ out-of-hand.

Don’t lie during the application process. If you do manage to squeak by, and the application is approved, and then you are caught during the contestability phase, your policy will be canceled and the deception will be noted on the Medical Information Bureau (MIB).

How Can I Get The Cheapest Life Insurance Rates For Smokers?

The lists we have provided above are filled with some of the best life insurance options for smokers on the market.  Not only are the rates affordable, but the coverage is great, and the companies have financial and historical prowess that speaks for itself.

Even with how easy it is to compare life insurance quotes online today, when applying for life insurance, it is still very important to speak with an insurance agent.

This will ensure that you find not only the best rates, but that you get the right life insurance policy for you that is specifically tailored towards your situation and financial goals.

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