Best life insurance companies for smokers

How cigarettes, vaping and more affect your rates.

Logan Sachon

Logan Sachon

Published August 20, 2019

If you smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or even use a Juul, you’ll probably pay more for life insurance.

Each insurer weighs smoking habits differently when setting premiums, so it’s important to get quotes from a number of different insurance companies to find the one that will give you the best rates.

In this article:

Why smoking status matters for life insurance

Life insurance companies set your rates by evaluating your risk. And — as you’re well aware — smoking is a risky behavior. Life insurers see it as having such an effect on risk that they divide health ratings into two classes: smoker (or tobacco) and nonsmoker (or non-tobacco).

What is considered a smoker for life insurance purposes?

If you smoke cigarettes, then you’re a smoker as far as life insurance is concerned. Even just at parties, even socially, even on occasion — you’ll still get smoker rates.

Other tobacco and nicotine products are less clear cut. If you Juul, use e-cigarettes, chew tobacco, or occasionally smoke a pipe, some insurance companies will automatically give you smoker rates — but some might consider you a nonsmoker.

Read more about life insurance and vaping.

Life insurance rates for smokers vs. nonsmokers

Smoker/tobacco rates can be up to 2x to 3x more than nonsmoker/non-tobacco rates. Here’s what that looks like in practice.

We pulled sample rates for a male in California at three ages in two health classes: preferred and standard. The following quotes are for a $500,000 policy and a 20-year term.

Sample Preferred rates, nonsmoker vs. smoker

AgePreferred nonsmokerPreferred smokerPercent increase

Sample Standard rates, nonsmoker vs. smoker

AgeStandard nonsmokerStandard smokerPercent increase

Compare the market, right here.

Policygenius saves you up to 40% by comparing the top-rated insurers in one place.

How life insurance companies know if you smoke

When you fill out an online life insurance application or speak to an agent, it’s important to be honest about your smoking habits. Lying on your application is insurance fraud, and it could result in your application being cancelled.

But even if you aren’t forthright about your smoking habits, the insurer can still find out one of three ways:

  1. During your life insurance medical exam, which is required for most policies, the insurance company will test your urine and/or blood for contnine, which is a byproduct of your body metabolizing nicotine.

  2. As part of underwriting, the insurer can request APS, which are attending physician statement. These include copies of your medical records and letters from your physician, and these documents are likely to disclose your smoking status.

  3. If your policy goes in-force listing you as a non-smoker and you die within the first two years of the policy (the contestability period, the insurer has a right to go over everything on your application again before they make a claim. If at that point they discover you lied about smoking, they can cancel your policy, leaving your family unprotected.

Honesty is the best policy, but especially when it comes to life insurance, when anything less is life insurance fraud.

How quitting smoking affects life insurance rates

As long as you’re using tobacco or nicotine products, your life insurance rates are going to stay where they are (or get higher) when you reapply. But a year after you quit, you can start to be eligible for non-smoker rates with many insurance companies.

Once you’re a year smoke-free, you become a nonsmoker in the eyes of many insurance companies, and the further you get from your quit date, the lower your rates can be.

You generally need to be at least a year out from your quit date to qualify for nonsmoker rates. If you’ve quit more recently, let our advisors know the details and we can help you find a plan that works for you.

Some companies are better for former smokers than others — and will give you lower rates faster.

Should smokers quit and then apply for life insurance?

We recommend that smokers and recent former smokers apply now and get a policy in place, even if higher premiums mean you need to go with a lower coverage amount for now. Then, if you quit smoking, you can either reapply when you’ve been smoke-free a year or you can ask your current insurance company to reconsider your application at non-smoker rates.

Our advisors can work with you to adjust your coverage and term to get to a premium you can afford. And when you’re ready to reapply as a nonsmoker or ask for reconsideration from your carrier, we can help you get the best rates then, too.

Further reading

Understanding how life insurance rates change by age

The cost of life insurance can increase by as much as 12% each year you put it off. See real life examples here.


How does the underwriting process work?

Life insurance rates are set largely based on the results of the underwriting process. Find out what exactly carriers look for.


Should you pay my life insurance premiums annually or monthly?

How often you pay your life insurance premiums can have a big impact on how much you spend on your policy.