The cheapest life insurance companies and quotes for smokers

The cheapest life insurance companies and quotes for smokers

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Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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.

&

Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

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Expert reviewed

This article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.

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Maria Filindras

Maria Filindras

Financial Advisor

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

Updated June 20, 2022 | 8 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Amanda Shih author photoRebecca Shoenthal author photo

By

Amanda Shih

Amanda Shih

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

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.

&

Rebecca Shoenthal

Rebecca Shoenthal

Editor & Licensed Life Insurance Expert

Rebecca Shoenthal is a licensed life, disability, and health insurance expert and a former editor at Policygenius. Her insights about life insurance and finance have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Fox Business, The Balance, HerMoney, SBLI, and John Hancock.

Expert reviewed

Expert reviewed

This article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.

Learn more about oureditorial review process.

By

Maria Filindras

Maria Filindras

Financial Advisor

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

Updated June 20, 2022 | 8 min read

Policygenius content follows strict guidelines for editorial accuracy and integrity. Learn about our editorial standards and how we make money.

Disclaimer: The information in this article may be impacted by COVID-19. Contact a Policygenius agent for free to find out more.

Buying life insurance as a smoker can be expensive. If you smoke cigarettes, chew tobacco, or use e-cigarettes, life insurance costs two to three times more than it would otherwise. That’s because life insurance companies set your premiums based on medical history and lifestyle risks, and nicotine has known negative health effects. But not every insurance company weighs the risk of smoking the same way. Read on to learn how smokers and ex-smokers can get the right life insurance for their situation.

Shopping for life insurance for smokers?

Finding coverage doesn't have to be complicated. We've got a team of experts who specialize in life insurance for people with various health considerations, including smokers. They'll help you find the right options for your unique needs so you can get covered with confidence.

What qualifies as a smoker for life insurance?

During the application process for life insurance, 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 test as part of the application process, including a nicotine test. To qualify for non-smoker rates, most providers will require you to be nicotine-free for at least one year.

E-cigarettes and vaping

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

Life insurers classify applicants in two major groups: smokers and non-smokers. Every company will ask how frequently you use tobacco and what kind of tobacco you use. Some providers, 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 and 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. If you test positive for nicotine during a medical exam, you’ll be classified as a smoker, regardless of the tobacco or nicotine product you use.

Marijuana

Some insurers classify marijuana users as tobacco users, which means they’re only eligible for smoker rates that are two to three times higher than non-smoker rates. Other life insurance companies 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.

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How do insurers classify smokers?

When you apply for life insurance, you are assigned a health classification based on your application details. Applicants in relatively good health, who don’t have risky habits, and who don’t practice dangerous hobbies usually get a better health classification and more affordable rates than someone who raises some flags. Smokers usually receive a lower classification for any tobacco use, but some providers give a better classification to infrequent cigar smokers.

Typical life insurance rating categories

  • Preferred Plus: applicants in superior health with no tobacco use and no family history of major medical conditions.

  • Preferred: non-smokers in good health with a minor health condition or medication.

  • Standard Plus: non-smokers in good health with a few minor health conditions or medications. 

  • Standard: Non-smokers in average health who may have a health condition, a higher height-to-weight ratio, or a family history of medical conditions. 

  • Preferred Smoker: smokers in otherwise great health with no family history of major medical conditions. 

  • Smoker (Standard): smokers with good health, who may have a minor health condition or medication

  • Table Rating: Table ratings are usually geared toward applicants who are in below-average health, and have one or more medical conditions and/or a high height-to-weight ratio. Table ratings can also include smoker or non-smoker rates depending on tobacco use.

Every life insurance applicant is given a health classification during the application process. 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 underwriting or reconsideration one year after quitting, or after your initial life insurance application was processed if you’d already quit, may get you a better classification. 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.

How much does life insurance cost for smokers?

Smokers pay an average of 217% more than non-smokers for the same policy, according to Policygenius data. For example, a 25-year-old female buying a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy could pay an extra $8,800 over the course of the policy compared to a 25-year-old non-smoker.

20-year term life insurance rates for non-smokers vs. smokers

AgeSexNon-smokerSmoker
25Female$21.10$57.24
Male$26.97$72.27
35Female$25.53$76.96
Male$30.32$92.53
45Female$47.94$162.66
Male$60.80$223.36
55Female$109.12$362.38
Male$151.65$518.83

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 AIG, Banner, Brighthouse, Lincoln, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Life, Protective, Prudential, SBLI, and Transamerica and may vary by insurer, term, coverage amount, health class, and state. Not all policies are available in all states. Rate illustration valid as of 5/01/2022.

How much you actually pay for life insurance depends on how often you use tobacco, how long you’ve been using it, and whether you have any tobacco-related health issues. Each insurer weighs these factors differently, so get quotes from multiple companies to find the best policy. 

There are also different life insurance guidelines for marijuana users and cigar smokers — you may even qualify for non-smoker rates with some companies. 

→ Learn more about how insurance companies set life insurance rates

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 premiums than others. The use of alternative tobacco products and the length of time since quitting for former smokers are two major differences across the top life insurance companies.

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

Methodology: How we chose the best life insurance companies for smokers

Expand

We don't get paid for our company reviews and use an extensive rubric of criteria covering policy details, price, financial confidence, third-party ratings, and customer experience to assign unbiased ratings out of five stars. Any recommendations we make are based on internal and external expert opinions and data from our Policygenius Price Index, which uses real-time rate data from leading life insurance companies to determine pricing trends.

Our ratings and reviews can help point you to an insurer you can rely on for your family’s financial protection, but the best life insurance company for you is dependent on multiple factors. A licensed agent at Policygenius can work with you through the application process so you’re getting coverage from the best insurer for your circumstances at the most competitive price.

→ Read more about our reviews methodology here

Best overall life insurance for smokers

4.7

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Banner logo

Long term lengths and competitive rates make Banner a top contender for smokers and people with complicated health issues.

Pros

  • Very competitive rates

  • Covers many health conditions

  • Term lengths up to 40 years

Cons

  • Strict temporary coverage qualifications 

  • Reconsideration is paid for by the applicant

Smokers will always pay more for life insurance than non-smokers for comparable policies, but Banner Life offers the most competitive rates to smokers among Policygenius’ partners. You’ll also be able to apply for lower premiums after a year if you quit smoking, whereas some other insurers do not offer non-smoker rates for two years or more.

Best life insurance for healthy smokers

Transamerica

4.4

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Transamerica logo

Transamerica offers affordable term life insurance options up to $10 million. Former smokers may be eligible for preferred rates, too.

Pros

  • No medical exam for people under a certain age or coverage amount

  • Former smokers may be eligible for lower rates

Cons

  • Uneven customer experience

  • Most policy changes require a paper form

Transamerica is competitively priced and allows smokers who are otherwise in good health to apply without an in-person medical exam. This can result in a faster turnaround time and an easier experience for the applicant.

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Best no-medical-exam life insurance for smokers

Transamerica

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 life insurance for marijuana smokers

Lincoln Financial

4.7

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Lincoln Financial logo

Lincoln Financial offers a no-medical-exam term life policy with quick decisions and affordable rates for shoppers of all age ranges, including marijuana users.

Pros

  • No-medical-exam option available

  • Fast turnaround

  • Low rates for marijuana users

Cons

  • Expensive permanent policies

  • Limited options for older tobacco users

Assuming the applicant does not have a history of drug abuse and has a clean driving record, marijuana smokers can qualify for Standard non-smoker rates with Lincoln Financial even if they are a frequent user. Applicants can qualify for Preferred rates if they use marijuana 12 or fewer times per month. When it comes to medical marijuana, Lincoln reviews the applicant based on the underlying condition, rather than the marijuana use itself.

Best term life insurance for smokers

Term life insurance is usually the most affordable coverage option for most people, including smokers. Banner Life, our overall top choice for life insurance for smokers, is also our pick for term life coverage due to its competitive rates and long terms — up to 40 years. Smokers who also have a minor health condition may be able to get more competitive pricing with Banner Life than they would with other carriers.

Whole life insurance for smokers

Smokers can qualify to apply for whole life insurance if they are seeking a permanent death benefit. Since whole life policies are typically five to 15 times more expensive than term, the added smoker rates can make them unaffordable for many applicants. The cash value accumulation of these policies is also offset by the expensive premiums, making it a less efficient investing vehicle. If you are a smoker looking for a permanent death benefit to cover final expenses, one option to consider is guaranteed issue whole life insurance. This type of permanent life insurance covers a smaller benefit amount and does not require a medical exam for approval.

When does a life insurance company consider you a non-smoker?

If you want to have access to non-smoking rates from a life insurer, you need to permanently quit tobacco. Quitting right before you apply for a policy won’t be enough to qualify for non-smoker rates. Insurers want you to be tobacco-free for at least one year before they’ll offer you non-smoker rates.

To be eligible for the best rates, you’ll need to be two to five years from your last nicotine use. After five years, if you're otherwise healthy, your life insurance rates won't be impacted by a former smoking habit, which can save you thousands of dollars on life insurance over your lifetime.

What happens if you start smoking after getting life insurance?

Insurance companies assess risk at the time of the application. If you were to pick up smoking after your policy is in force, your rates would remain the same. You would not 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 would not receive the death benefit. ​​

Methodology: How we chose the best companies for smokers

Policygenius takes a comprehensive approach to determine the best life insurance companies out there. We don't get paid for reviews and evaluate an extensive set of criteria to come up with an unbiased analysis to help you find the right insurer. 

Our independent analyses consist of life insurance recommendations by experts in the field, data from the life insurance companies we offer in our marketplace, and third-party life insurance ratings agencies.

These ratings evaluate an insurer’s ability to meet its financial obligations, financial health, customer satisfaction, marketing practices, and more. 

→ Learn more about our ratings methodology for life insurance reviews here

Frequently asked questions:

Can I get life insurance if I smoke?

You can still get life insurance if you smoke, but you’ll pay more. Smokers can get the most competitive rates from Banner Life, but Transamerica also offers affordable rates for healthy smokers and for applicants looking for no-medical-exam coverage options.

How much more does life insurance cost for smokers?

Smokers pay two to three times more for life insurance compared to non-smokers of similar age and health history.

How long after quitting smoking can you get life insurance?

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

Does COVID-19 affect the life insurance application process or eligibility for smokers?

Due to the ever-changing nature of the coronavirus pandemic, some insurers are modifying processes and/or imposing coverage restrictions on certain health conditions or age groups. Speak to a Policygenius agent for free to find out how to get the most affordable policy.