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What Smokers and Tobacco Users Should Know About Life Insurance

By the Bestow Team·April 06, 2022·5 Minute Read

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It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes can affect your health, but did you know that your smoking habit can significantly impact your life insurance rates too? The blunt truth is that nicotine and tobacco users can pay 200% more than non-smokers in life insurance premiums.

If you’re here because you know that you need life insurance, are contemplating term life insurance pros and cons, but you’re not ready to quit cold turkey, or you aren’t sure if you are technically considered a smoker, this article is here to help. There are some important things you should know about insurance for smokers as you head toward the application process.

What Makes Someone a Smoker?

There are all sorts of ways to consume nicotine. Cigarettes are the most popular form of tobacco product consumption, but even smoke-free, non-tobacco nicotine products may impact your premiums. Same with smoking cannabis — a life insurance company can ask you about this, too.

Looking for a list of tobacco uses insurers might ask you about? Here it is:

  • Vaping & e-cigarettes
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
  • Hookahs
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Dissolvable tobacco
  • Nicotine replacement therapies (patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nose sprays)
  • And even cannabis use depending on the frequency and method of use

And if you’ve quit smoking recently? Many insurers consider how long you’ve gone without smoking cigarettes when determining your life insurance rate. It’s not one-size-fits-all pricing here in life insurance land, and it often works on a sliding scale.

Why Smokers Get Different Life Insurance Rates

Life insurance rates are largely determined by life expectancy and risk. Because there are many health risks associated with smoking, life insurance companies factor your smoking status into your risk assessment.

And while you may be young and not currently experiencing any of the health effects of smoking, your insurance rate will be determined by your current behavior and potential long-term effects, not just your health status. Simply being a smoker can lead to higher premiums. 

Life Insurance for Smokers vs. Non-Smokers

So, how much more do smokers pay for life insurance than non-smokers? We’d love to give you an exact premium amount, but the fact is several factors determine life insurance rates. We can, however, offer data and a synopsis or two. 

Smoker rates tend to be higher than non-smoker rates. When comparing them, it’s not uncommon for smokers to pay a higher premium—double or triple what a non-smoker would pay. 

Types of Life Insurance for Smokers

There are several types of life insurance available to smokers. Here’s a breakdown of each type you might want to apply for if you are a tobacco user:

  • Level Term Life Insurance is one you’ve probably heard of. This type of life insurance policy is straightforward, covering you for an agreed-upon amount of time, generally ranging from five to thirty years. Once you lock in your rate, your premiums remain the same throughout the life of the policy. This is typically the most affordable life insurance option. Some companies require medical exams for term life coverage, while others do not.
  • Whole Life Insurance offers permanent coverage and has a cash value component. This type of insurance tends to be far more expensive than term life insurance for both smokers and non-smokers. 
  • Universal Life Insurance is another type of permanent life insurance with a cash value component that can grow over time. Universal policies can offer more premium flexibility and may come with an adjustable death benefit, but they tend to be pricier than other types of life insurance. 

Let’s focus on term life insurance and look at what a 20-year coverage term would cost a tobacco and cigar smoker who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, weighs 180 pounds, and lives in Phoenix, Arizona (it’s a dry heat).

Here’s an estimate of insurance costs based on this information: 

Age Term Life Insurance ($100,000 Death Benefit) Term Life Insurance ($200,000 Death Benefit) Term Life Insurance ($300,000 Death Benefit) Term Life Insurance ($500,000 Death Benefit)
20$25.58 per month$51.17 per month$63.00 per month$96.42 per month
30$36.75 per month$67.50 per month$73.00 per month$112.25 per month
40$58.00 per month$110.00 per month$122.00 per month$190.17 per month
*Above chart estimates based on healthy male smoker, 20-year term as of 8/30/22 using Bestow. If you’re curious about your own coverage costs, you can easily, and near-instantly, grab a free quote for term life insurance.

Forbes - Ranked #1 “Best Life Insurance Company” in the U.S. by thousands of real customers. No medical exams required. Get a quote.

Smoking & Tobacco Use FAQs

What If I Recently Quit Smoking?

First of all, virtual high five. Giving up cigarettes is not easy, and you have taken a massive step in a healthy direction. However, it is in your best interest to disclose your smoking history to your insurance agent or carrier even if it’s been a while since you last had a puff.

On a happy note, most insurance companies will consider you a non-smoker after 12 months of being nicotine-free.

What If I Give Up Tobacco After I Have Life Insurance?

If you quit during your policy, ask your insurance company about next steps. 

What If I Start Using Tobacco After The Start Of My Policy?

Once you buy a term life insurance policy, your rate is locked. If you pick up smoking after point of purchase, insurers cannot raise your monthly premium on a current policy.

Life Insurance for Cannabis Users

There are so many names for cannabis: weed, pot, marijuana. Whatever you call it, if you use or consume it, you should disclose it on your life insurance application. Some insurance companies will ask about specific marijuana usage, while others will simply consider those who smoke or vape cannabis as smokers. 

Beyond Smoking

To recap, when it comes to life insurance, you don’t necessarily have to smoke cigarettes to be considered a smoker. Insurance companies will examine consumption of tobacco, cannabis, and smokeless nicotine products, including (but not limited to): vaping, e-cigarettes, pipes, hookahs, chewing tobacco, cigars, snuff, dissolvable tobacco, and nicotine replacement therapies.  

Get Life Insurance Coverage Today

Smoking isn’t the end of the world, nor is it an absolute deal-breaker when it comes to life insurance. And if you’re looking to help protect your family’s financial future, term life insurance could be a solid, affordable option. 

Play around with quotes adjusting the length of term and death benefit amount until you find something that works for you — a policy that is in your budget and offers enough coverage to help give you and your loved ones some peace of mind.

With Bestow, you can get a life insurance term length of 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 years. The application process is entirely online, super simple, and takes just a few minutes. With Bestow, there are no medical exams and no needles — just you and whatever device you have at hand (phone, tablet, laptop). Instead of an exam, we’ll ask you a few health and medical questions to determine eligibility. Get started with a free, instant life insurance quote. If you like what you see, apply now and if approved, you could have coverage by the end of the day.

Key Takeaways

  • Smokers typically pay more for life insurance than for non-smokers.
  • Life insurance rates are determined by several factors, including nicotine, tobacco, and sometimes even cannabis use.
  • Life insurance rates are, in part, determined by life expectancy and risk. Because there are many health risks associated with smoking, life insurance companies factor your smoking status into your risk assessment.