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The Cost of Life Insurance for Smokers

Written by Jason Patterson

In this day and age, purchasing life insurance has never been more important. Not only does life insurance cover the aftermath of one’s death, but it also comes with certain tax benefits. The cost of life insurance varies from person to person.  Depending on your age, health, lifestyle, and family history, your premiums will fluctuate.

For smokers, life insurance can cost 2 to 4 times more than it does for non-smokers.  Why? Well, it is no secret that smoking has been linked to premature death and many more life threatening health conditions.  For life insurance companies, this spells out liability.

The higher your chance of dying before the end of your policy, the higher the chance that they will have to pay out your death benefit.  Naturally, your life insurance premiums reflect this risk.

Getting Life Insurance as a Smoker

Life insurance agencies began charging smokers higher fees in the 1970s after America learned of the associated risks. Ultimately, the higher costs reflect the higher risk that smokers pose to insurance companies.  As a result, their premiums reflect this risk.

Despite the higher costs of life insurance, smokers likely have a higher need for life insurance coverage. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smokers are expected to die sooner than people who don’t smoke.  On average, smokers lose roughly one decade of life unlike people who don’t smoke. However, smokers who give up the habit prior to turning 40 years old have a 90% chance of decreasing their probability of dying from a disease associated with smoking.

Who is Officially Classified as a Smoker?

While the specifics of smoker classification may vary for each company, most life insurance companies maintain a general criteria for what classifies a policyholder as a smoker. People who regularly use the following tobacco products are considered as smokers:

  • Cigars
  • Cigarettes
  • Nicotine patches
  • Nicotine gum
  • Electronic cigarettes
  • Chewing tobacco

The duration which a tobacco user has been using for plays a role in their classification. Someone who has used a tobacco product regularly in the last 2-5 years is usually classified as a smoker.

On top of this, an applicants frequency of use also comes in to play when determining rates.  For instance, someone who smokes a pack a day is a significantly lower health risk than someone who smokes four packs a day. Some companies do not make this classification, while many do.

Lying about Smoking During the Application Process

For policies with a medical examination, part of that examination is a test to determine whether or not you are a smoker.  

This generally comes in the form of a urine, saliva, or blood test. Even if you manage to pass the nicotine test after lying on an application, if an insurer later learns about past smoking habits, they can refuse to grant the death benefit in the event of premature death.

During the application process for life insurance, you will be asked the following questions:

  • Have you smoked or used tobacco products within the past 12 months?
  • Which tobacco products do you use?
  • How frequently do you smoke or use tobacco?

Lying on an application for life insurance is illegal, and is considered to be soft fraud. In most states, this can result in a misdemeanor, fines, and probation.  

Atop this, it can result in denial of coverage.  Not to mention, if an insurer discovers you lied after your policy has been issued, you can lose all of your premiums and be denied any further coverage.  In the event of your death, if an insurer discovers you died as a result of smoking related health complications, your family may become ineligible to receive any of your death benefit or policy payout.

How Much Higher are Life Insurance Rates and Premiums for Smokers?

how much higher are life insurance premiums for smokers

Smokers may be surprised to learn that their rates on average run at least 15-20% higher than non-smokers. However, this does not mean this is what you can expect as a smoker.  

In fact, you should likely expect a much higher rate increase.  More often than not, smokers and tobacco users can expect to pay from 2-4 times higher than their non-smoking counterparts for life insurance premiums.

To illustrate this, here are some examples of the difference between policy premiums for smokers and non-smokers that can give you a better idea of what to expect for premiums.

As you may already know, rates also vary according to age, policy, and company.

For instance, a 30 year old, non-smoking male with a $500,000, 20 year, SBLI life insurance policy will pay a monthly premium of $20.88. However if this same 30 year old turns out to be a smoker, their monthly premium becomes $77.00 per month.

For a 40 year old, non-smoking male with a $500,000, 20 year, SBLI life insurance policy with his smoking counterpart. So, the man who does not smoke will owe a monthly fee of $30.45. However, if a man of the same age and similar plan happens to be a smoker, then he now owes a monthly fee of $134.31 to cover his Banner life insurance.

One last example is a 50 year old, non smoking male with a $500,000, 20 year, SBLI life insurance policy. Assuming that this man does not smoke or use tobacco products, he will owe the insurance agency $81.35 each month. However, if he does smoke or use tobacco products, then the monthly cost of $81.35 now becomes a due of $337.75 per month (to Transamerica).

Other Important Factors for Consideration

How Chewing Tobacco and Smoking Cigars Affects Life Insurance Rates

Smokers may be surprised to learn that certain insurance companies may forgive their use of chewing tobacco or infrequent smoking of cigars by categorizing them as a nonsmoker.

However, each company has different policies, meaning this is not always the case. This is one reason why research and comparing options prior to filing a claim makes a great difference.

How Vaping Affects Life Insurance Rates

Not all companies view vaping the same way, some will automatically label vapers as smokers. However, other life insurance agencies may not consider vaping as smoking.  You can expect that due to the lack of research on the effects of vaping on health, most companies will classify those who vape as smokers.

How the Use of Marijuana Affects Life Insurance Rates

Even though certain U.S. states have legalized the use of marijuana (even for recreational purposes), not all life insurance companies are as understanding.  In short, this classification for marijuana users as smokers is different on a company to company basis.

For those using marijuana legally for medical reasons, life insurance companies are usually willing to work with them in order to secure the best rate.

However, for those using it recreationally, more often than not, they are classified as smokers.  The reason being, they are still inhaling smoke in their lungs, causing damage to their bodies that can potentially lead to future health complications.  

If You Quit Smoking After Obtaining Life Insurance…

For those who have quit smoking after purchasing life insurance, or plan to do so, there is good news. Individuals who stop smoking have the option of notifying their life insurance company for reclassification.

Most agencies make policyholders quit smoking for at least 12 months before they allow them to take another medical examination in order to reclassify, and receive lower rates.

This simple reclassification can result in thousands of dollars in annual savings.

The Best Life Insurance Companies for Smokers

Even though smokers are likely to pay higher rates for life insurance, there are some life insurance providers who are notorious for their low rates for smokers.  Here is a list of our top 5:

Lowest Rates for Smokers Life Insurance:


The table below shows the monthly life insurance premiums for both men and woman age 40 who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day:

Term Men Women
10 Year $147.03/mo. $127.89/mo.
20 Year $252.30/mo. $199.23/mo.
30 Year $435.87/mo. $304.50/mo.

Pacific Life

The table below shows the monthly life insurance premiums for both men and woman age 40 who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day:

Term Men Women
10 Year $144.08/mo. $120.06/mo.
20 Year $246.49/mo. $189.13/mo.
30 Year $421.09/mo. $296.14/mo.


The table below shows the monthly life insurance premiums for both men and woman age 40 who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day:

Term Men Women
10 Year $184.59/mo. $117.12/mo.
20 Year $250.33/mo. $186.32/mo.
30 Year $428.52/mo. $301.37/mo.

Banner Life

The table below shows the monthly life insurance premiums for both men and woman age 40 who smoke one pack of cigarettes per day:

Term Men Women
10 Year $144.06/mo. $116.44/mo.
20 Year $246.49/mo. $185.24/mo.
30 Year $421.08/mo. $296.13/mo.

Life Insurance for Smokers – What You Need to Know

Life insurance rates for smokers will be higher than for non-smokers.  This is because they pose a higher risk of premature death as a result of health complications related to their smoking habits.

Not just people who smoke cigarettes are classified as smokers by life insurance companies.  Those who smoke cigars, vapes, pipes, and use chewing tobacco are also usually considered smokers by most companies.

For those who are already smokers with life insurance policies, there is the possibility of being considered for reclassification after a probationary period of not smoking.  Usually this is between 1-2 years after quitting or starting a policy. This process is as simple as contacting your insurance agent, asking for reclassification as a non-smoker, and taking another medical examination to prove it.

For those who have no intention of quitting smoking, there are companies that are well known for providing the most affordable coverage for smokers on the market.  The best life insurance companies for smokers are:

  • SBLI
  • Pacific Life
  • AIG
  • Banner Life


About Jason Patterson
About Jason Patterson

Jason Patterson has been in the insurance industry for over fifteen years. Starting in 2005, he became one of the first agents to sell medicare supplements online. From that small start, he grew an agency that helped thousands of people with their insurance needs in all fifty states.

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