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Best life insurance for smokers (2024)

Smokers pay at least twice as much for life insurance as non-smokers, but you won’t be denied coverage just for smoking. Legal & General America, Corebridge Financial, and Transamerica offer some of the best rates for smokers.

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By

Amanda ShihEditor & Licensed Life Insurance ExpertAmanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.&Tory CrowleyAssociate Editor & Licensed Life Insurance AgentTory Crowley is an associate life insurance and annuities editor and a licensed insurance agent at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.

Edited by

Antonio Ruiz-CamachoAntonio Ruiz-CamachoAssociate Content DirectorAntonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.
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Reviewed by

Maria FilindrasMaria FilindrasFinancial AdvisorMaria Filindras is a financial advisor, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent in California, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

Updated|5 min read

Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a member of ourFinancial Review Council to ensure all sources, statistics, and claims meet the highest standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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Can smokers get life insurance?

Using tobacco products won’t disqualify you from getting life insurance, but you can expect to pay two to three times more for coverage than somebody who doesn’t smoke. 

Why do smokers pay more for life insurance?

Because smoking has known negative health effects, insurance companies consider it an increased insurance risk. The riskier you are to insure, the more you’ll have to pay in life insurance premiums — because your chances of dying while your policy is active will be greater.

How much more does life insurance cost for smokers?

Smokers pay an average of 286% more than non-smokers for the same policy, according to Policygenius data. For example, a 30-year-old female buying a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy could pay an extra $10,200 over the course of the policy compared to a 30-year-old non-smoker.

Methodology

Why you can trust our rates

At Policygenius, our educational guides are written and fact-checked by licensed life insurance experts and reviewed by our Financial Review Council to ensure autonomy, expertise, and accuracy. Our rates are based on internal actuarial rate tables for 10 life insurance carriers that offer policies through the Policygenius marketplace (Brighthouse Financial, Corebridge Financial, Legal & General America, Lincoln Financial, MassMutual, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, and Transamerica), and the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. The prices represent the average monthly life insurance premium for each sample customer profile (age, gender) and policy type (term or whole, and coverage amount) as of the date reflected on each tables methodology. Rates for those products may vary by state, and not all products are available in all states. Individual rates may vary, depending on age, gender, state, health profile, and other eligibility criteria.

Term life insurance rates for smokers vs. non-smokers

Term life insurance is the most popular coverage option for most people, including smokers. It’s affordable, comes with few rules and tax restrictions, and only lasts for as long as you need it — usually 10 to 30 years — during the time of your life when you have the biggest expenses, such as paying off a mortgage or raising children.

While life insurance is generally more expensive for smokers, term life policies are much cheaper than permanent life policies, which never expire. A 30-year-old female who smokes and is in otherwise good health can expect to pay $65.75 per month for a 20-year term life insurance with a $500,000 payout. A 30-year-old male smoker with the same health profile can expect to pay $80.95 per month for a policy with a similar coverage.

Age

Gender

Non-smoker

Smoker

20

Female

$22.65

$60.59

Male

$30.20

$76.43

30

Female

$22.98

$65.75

Male

$29.32

$80.95

40

Female

$35.27

$113.40

Male

$42.94

$145.39

50

Female

$78.29

$257.05

Male

$102.50

$351.50

60

Female

$194.16

$617.51

Male

$268.04

$887.93

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Methodology: Rates are calculated for male and female smokers and non-smokers in a Preferred or Preferred Tobacco health classification, obtaining a 20-year, $500,000 term life insurance policy. Life insurance averages are based on a composite of policies offered by Policygenius from Brighthouse Financial, Corebridge Financial, Legal & General America, Lincoln Financial, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, and Transamerica, and the Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. Rates may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 03/01/2024.

Whole life insurance rates for smokers vs. non-smokers

Whole life insurance is a type of permanent coverage that doesn’t expire and comes with a cash value component that can be used for saving, investment, or estate planning purposes while you’re still alive. Whole life policies are significantly more expensive than term life policies — and rates are even higher for smokers.

However, whole life can be a good fit for high-net-worth individuals, people with long-term financial responsibilities, or people with dependents who require lifelong care, such as an aging parent or a child with a disability. A 30-year-old female smoker in otherwise good health can expect to pay $505.20 per month for a $500,000 whole life insurance policy.

This type of policy is best suited for people looking to use life insurance to diversify their investment portfolio or those with long-term financial obligations or coverage needs, like dependents who require lifelong care.

Age

Gender

Non-smoker

Smoker

20

Female

$293.00

$351.60

Male

$360.00

$432.00

30

Female

$421.00

$505.20

Male

$502.00

$602.40

40

Female

$623.00

$747.60

Male

$768.00

$921.60

50

Female

$994.00

$1,192.80

Male

$1,188.00

$1,425.60

60

Female

$1,654.00

$1,948.8

Male

$2,017.00

$2,420.40

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Methodology: Rates are calculated for male and female non-smokers and smokers in a Standard health classification, obtaining a $500,000 whole life insurance policy payable until age 100 offered by Policygenius from MassMutual. Individual rates will vary as specific circumstances will affect each customer’s rate. Rate illustration valid as of 03/01/2024.

What qualifies as a smoker for life insurance?

When you apply for a life insurance policy, companies will ask you if you consume tobacco, what kind of tobacco products you use, and how frequently you use them.

Depending on your personal situation, some insurers may also ask you to take a medical exam as part of the application process, including testing for nicotine. If you test positive, you’ll be classified as a smoker, regardless of the tobacco or nicotine product you use.

Learn more about the life insurance medical exam

How does your use of tobacco products affect your life insurance options?

E-cigarettes & vaping

Most major life insurance companies consider electronic cigarette (e-cigs) users and vapers riskier to insure than non-smokers. This is because there isn’t much research on vaping and its long term health effects yet.

Insurers generally treat vapers the same as smokers when determining how much they’ll pay for a life insurance policy.

Chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco may have an impact on your life insurance application — depending on your tobacco use and whether you have to take a medical test.

Chewing tobacco can appear on a nicotine test for days or weeks after your last use. If you test positive for nicotine and cotinine (what nicotine metabolizes into in the body), you’ll be categorized as a smoker and charged accordingly.

Cigars & pipes

Life insurers classify applicants into two major groups: smokers and non-smokers. 

Some insurers, however, are more flexible about categorizing you as a non-smoker if you only occasionally consume tobacco products, such as a celebratory cigar or pipe every six months.

Nicotine gum & patches

Nicotine replacement products, such as gum and patches used to quit smoking, count as smoking to life insurance companies.

Similar to chewing tobacco, cigarettes, and cigars, these products all leave traces of nicotine or cotinine in your blood and urine for more than one week and up to one month, depending on the product.

Some insurers, however, might consider offering you non-smoker rates if you disclose the use of nicotine replacement products on your application.

Marijuana

Some insurers classify marijuana users as tobacco users. Others will offer non-smoker rates and even their best rates to marijuana users, depending on how often you use cannabis. If you vape marijuana, you’re more likely to be charged smoker rates.

How do insurers classify smokers?

When you apply for life insurance, you’re assigned a health classification based on your insurance risk.

Applicants in relatively good health, who don’t have risky habits, and don’t practice dangerous hobbies usually get a better health classification and more affordable rates than someone who raises some flags. This is because the higher your insurance risk, the greater the chances that you’ll die while your policy is active.

Smokers usually receive a lower health classification for any tobacco use, which is why they usually have to pay two to three times more for life insurance than people who don’t smoke.

These are the smoker health classifications most commonly used across the life insurance industry.

  • Preferred Smoker: Smokers with one or two well-controlled or resolved minor health conditions and no family history of major medical conditions. 

  • Smoker (Standard): Smokers who may have well-controlled or resolved moderate health conditions, chronic health conditions, or mental health conditions like mild depression or anxiety.

  • Table Rating: Table ratings are usually geared toward applicants with more serious health conditions and/or a height-to-weight ratio that falls within the insurance company’s guidelines for what is considered overweight. Table ratings can also include smoker or non-smoker rates depending on tobacco use.

How long do you have to quit smoking to be eligible for non-smoker life insurance rates?

  • To qualify for non-smoker rates, most life insurance companies will require you to be nicotine-free for at least one year.

  • If you’re a smoker who’s considering quitting, or you quit smoking recently but still were given a health classification as a smoker, you have options to lower the cost of life insurance in the future.

  • Going through reconsideration one year after quitting or after your initial life insurance application was processed if you’d already quit, may get you a better health classification — and a lower rate.

  • Most insurers will require you to go through the underwriting process again — including taking the medical exam — to prove that you’re smoke-free and your health warrants a rate reduction.

Learn more about the life insurance underwriting process

How do life insurers test for nicotine?

During your application, you’ll be asked if you use tobacco products and when you last used them. That includes cigarettes, vaping, and any smokeless tobacco products. 

Then, in many cases, you’ll have to take the medical exam, which includes urine and blood tests that can detect nicotine and cotinine — a byproduct of your body processing nicotine that stays in your blood even after nicotine has left your system.

How long does nicotine stay in your system?

Signs of nicotine stay in your blood for up to three days, but cotinine — what nicotine metabolizes into and a sure sign that nicotine was present in the body — can remain in your blood for longer than a week. For a urine test, it can take almost a month to get all signs of smoking out of your system.

Will secondhand smoke show up on your life insurance nicotine test?

According to the CDC, there are known health effects of secondhand smoke. But secondhand smoke from a family member or coworker is unlikely to show up on your nicotine test.

While secondhand smoke isn’t good for you, you won’t absorb the amount of nicotine through secondhand exposure that you would as a smoker or user of other tobacco products, and it won’t show up in your blood test. If a nicotine test is positive, it’s because that person recently used tobacco.

Will nicotine gum or the nicotine patch show up on your life insurance nicotine test?

Smoking cessation products that help you quit — like nicotine patches or nicotine gum — contain enough nicotine to show up on nicotine tests. And even though these products ostensibly help you quit smoking, they’re still categorized as tobacco use by most life insurance companies.

Some insurers are more lenient than others and will give special consideration to smoking cessation products provided there isn’t any other tobacco use involved. Other insurers include cigarette smoking and nicotine substitutes (e-cigarettes, nicotine patches, and other smoking cessation products) under the same guidelines and classify users accordingly.

If you’re using nicotine gum or a patch, it’s important to choose an insurer that will look favorably on your efforts to quit.

Will chewing tobacco show up on your life insurance nicotine test?

Chewing tobacco contains a high amount of nicotine, so if you’re a regular or even occasional user, you’ll likely test positive for nicotine or cotinine. Even though you aren’t technically smoking, you’ll still be assigned a smoker classification because the health risks are similar to cigarette use.

Can you quit smoking cold turkey & pass your life insurance nicotine test?

If you quit smoking several weeks before your life insurance medical exam, there’s a chance that your nicotine and cotinine screenings will come back negative.

Still, quitting less than a year before your medical exam is unlikely to earn you more affordable life insurance premiums. Most insurers don’t offer you non-smoker rates until you’ve gone a year or more without using tobacco.

What happens if you lie about your nicotine use?

If you lie about your nicotine use, somehow pass the medical screening without it showing up in a nicotine test, and are issued a non-smoker policy, you could be putting your family at risk of leaving them without financial protection in the event of your death.

Lying or misrepresenting yourself on a life insurance application is considered life insurance fraud. If the insurer finds out, it could decline your application, cancel an existing policy, or refuse to pay the death benefit to your loved ones after you die.

What is the contestability period & why might it affect your life insurance?

The first two years after your policy goes into effect are known as the contestability period. If you die during that period, the insurance company has the right to go through your medical records and application materials again.

If the insurer suspects that you lied about something on your application — for example, saying you didn’t smoke when you actually did — it can cancel your policy.

This rule doesn’t just apply to the contestability period. Many policies include language that allows insurers to deny the death benefit or cancel the policy over fraudulent statements at any time, even past the first two years.

If you lie on your application, the best-case scenario for your beneficiaries is that the insurance company delays the payment of the death benefit while they investigate.

The worst-case scenario is the life insurer declines to pay any of your death benefit if your death is deemed tobacco-related.

Ready for shop for life insurance for smokers?

The best life insurance companies for smokers

Every insurance company distinguishes between smokers and non-smokers, but some put less emphasis on smoking when determining the cost of premiums than others. The use of alternative tobacco products and the length of time since quitting are two major differences in how the top life insurance companies set rates for smokers and former smokers.

We used industry data, pricing from Policygenius carrier partners, and ratings from third parties like AM Best and J.D. Power to pick the best insurers on the market for smokers. Our independent recommendations will help you get life insurance coverage with confidence.

Not sure which company is the best fit for you? A licensed Policygenius agent can talk you through the options, help you compare life insurance quotes, and walk you through the application process so you can find the company — and policy — that works for you.

Methodology

Why you can trust our picks

Our recommendations are based on internal and external expert analysis, as well as our Policygenius Life Insurance Price Index, which uses real-time data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends. When reviewing a life insurance company, our editorial team uses a proprietary scoring rubric with five factors — price, policy details, financial strength, transparency, and customer experience — to assign an unbiased rating between one and five stars. These ratings are also taken into consideration as part of our company recommendations. We don’t get paid for our reviews.

Our reviews and recommendations can help you find a reliable insurer for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you depends on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can support you during the application process to ensure you get the right coverage for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

Read more about our reviews methodology

According to our analysis, Legal & General America, which also does business as Banner Life and William Penn, offers the best coverage at the most affordable rates to smokers. The company offers long terms — up to 40 years — which makes it a great option for anyone shopping for term life insurance.

You’ll also be able to apply for lower premiums with Legal & General America after a year if you quit smoking, whereas some insurers don’t offer non-smoker rates for two years or more after quitting.

Cheapest life insurance for smokers: Corebridge Financial

award icon

2024 Policygenius award winner

Corebridge Financial

Corebridge Financial logo

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.6

AM Best rating 

AM Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

30+ year terms

All 50 states

Why we chose itchevron icon

With competitive pricing and a range of flexible term periods for its Select-a-Term product, Corebridge is a solid option for many life insurance shoppers. Note: We are currently using AIG’s financial strength ratings until Corebridge has its own rating.

Pros and conschevron icon

Pros

  • Competitive pricing for all ages

  • Favorable underwriting for people with heart conditions and diabetes

  • Good for current and recently pregnant people, including people with gestational diabetes

Cons

  • Not the best for people with mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression

  • No no-medical-exam term option

Our analysis found that Corebridge Financial (formerly AIG Life & Retirement) offers especially affordable life insurance options with customizable term lengths and riders to people with common health conditions, including smokers.

The company offers some of the cheapest rates on the market for both male and female smokers.

Best no-exam life insurance for smokers: Transamerica

Transamerica

Transamerica logo

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.6

AM Best rating 

AM Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

No-medical-exam option

Why we chose itchevron icon

Transamerica is one of the oldest and largest life insurance companies, with over 12 million active accounts today. It offers affordable rates for almost every age, and you can even skip the medical exam if you fall under a certain age or coverage amount.

Pros and conschevron icon

Pros

  • Competitive rates for term life insurance

  • No-medical-exam available for qualifying applicants, including smokers and people between 60 and 70, which is rare

  • One of the fastest turnaround times in the industry for traditionally underwritten term policies

Cons

  • Term life not available in New York

  • Not a good option for people with a history of cancer, alcohol abuse, or asthma

In most cases, tobacco users will be required to take a medical exam for life insurance. Transamerica allows smokers in otherwise good health to complete a health questionnaire along with their application instead. However, the company may request a medical exam upon further review of your health history.

Best whole life insurance for smokers: MassMutual

award icon

2024 Policygenius award winner

MassMutual

Policygenius rating 

Our proprietary rating methodology takes multiple factors into account, including customer satisfaction, cost, financial strength, and policy offerings. See the "methodology" section for more details.

Full orange starFull orange starFull orange starFull orange starHalf orange star

4.9

AM Best rating 

AM Best is a global credit rating agency that scores the financial strength of insurance companies on a scale from A++ (Superior) to D (Poor).

A++

Cost 

Using a mix of internal and external rate data, we grade the cost of each insurance company's premiums on a scale from least expensive ($) to most expensive ($$$$$).

$

$

$

$

$

All 50 states

Why we chose itchevron icon

MassMutual’s whole life insurance plan provides a lifetime coverage option that builds cash value with the potential to earn dividends.

Pros and conschevron icon

Pros

  • Strong financial stability ratings

  • Higher potential for dividends for whole life policyholders than many competitors

  • Good customer satisfaction ratings

Cons

  • High term life premiums

  • Term life not available through Policygenius

Our analysis found that MassMutual is the best whole life insurance option for people who use tobacco products. The company pays higher dividends to its cash value policyholders than many competitors and offers affordable rates to smokers in good health. 

MassMutual has high customer experience ratings compared to other insurers and consistently receives high financial stability ratings from third parties, which is especially important when purchasing a lifelong policy.

Comparing the best life insurance companies for smokers of 2024

Insurer

Policygenius rating

Best for

AM Best rating

Legal & General America

4.9/5 ★

Overall, term life insurance

A+

MassMutual

4.9/5 ★

Whole life insurance

A++

Corebridge Financial

4.6/5 ★

Affordability

A

Transamerica 

4.3/5 ★

No-medical-exam

A

Learn more about the best life insurance companies of 2024

Ready for shop for life insurance for smokers?

What happens if you start smoking after getting life insurance?

Insurance companies assess risk at the time of the application. If you start smoking after your policy is active, your rates will remain the same. You wouldn’t need to disclose your smoking habit to your insurance company, but if you were to apply for a new policy, you would then receive smoker rates. 

That said, if you were to pass away during the contestability period — the two-year time frame during which the insurance company can review the application to confirm there were no misrepresentations — it could reflect poorly if you represented yourself as a non-smoker on the application with intentions to resume smoking.

The insurance company could even deny the claim, meaning that your beneficiary wouldn’t receive the death benefit.

Other health concerns that can affect your life insurance

Certain pre-existing conditions and other health-related concerns can affect your life insurance options or costs. A Policygenius expert can help you find the right policy for your needs.

Authors

Amanda Shih is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius, where she covered life insurance and disability insurance. Her expertise has appeared in Slate, Lifehacker, Little Spoon, and J.D. Power.

Tory Crowley is an associate life insurance and annuities editor and a licensed insurance agent at Policygenius. Previously, she worked directly with clients at Policygenius, advising nearly 3,000 of them on life insurance options. She has also worked at the Daily News and various nonprofit organizations.

Editor

Antonio helps lead our life insurance and disability insurance editorial team at Policygenius. Previously, he was a senior director of content at Bankrate and CreditCards.com, as well as a principal writer covering personal finance at CNET.

Expert reviewer

Maria Filindras is a financial advisor, a licensed Life & Health insurance agent in California, and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius.

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