What Smokers Should Know About Life Insurance

by Bestow Team | April 06, 2022

6 Minute Read

It’s no secret that smoking cigarettes can affect your health, but did you know that it can have a pretty significant impact on 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, but you’re not exactly 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 consumption, but even smoke-free, non-tobacco nicotine products may impact your premiums. Same with smoking cannabis — your insurance company might ask you about this, too.

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

  • Vaping & e-cigarettes
  • Bidis (thin hand-rolled cigarettes)
  • Cigars
  • Pipes
  • Hookahs
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Snuff
  • Dissolvable tobacco
  • Nicotine replacement therapies (patches, lozenges, gum, inhalers, nose sprays)
  • Heated tobacco products
  • Nicotine patches 
  • Nicotine gum
  • 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 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, 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.

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 behavior, not just your current 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 when compared to non-smokers? We’d love to give you an exact premium amount, but the fact is, life insurance rates are determined by a number of factors. We can, however, offer data and a synopsis or two. 

When comparing the premium costs of smokers and non-smokers, it’s not uncommon for smokers to pay double or triple what a non-smoker would pay. 

Types of Life Insurance for Smokers

There are several types of life insurance smokers can apply for. Here’s a breakdown of each.

  • Level Term Life Insurance is one you’ve probably heard of. This type of 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.
  • 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 take a look at what a 20-year coverage term would cost a 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: 

AgeTerm 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$28.58 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 quote for term life insurance.

How Do Life Insurance Companies Rate Smokers?

When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company will usually place you into a rating category. These ratings are all about your health and overall risk factor.

Here are what those categories look like here at Bestow: 

  • Preferred Classes: Elite non-tobacco and preferred non-tobacco users.
  • Standard Classes:: Select non-tobacco and select tobacco users. 
  • Substandard Classes: Essential non-tobacco and essential tobacco users.

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 huge step in a healthy direction. Even if it’s been a while since you last had a puff, it is in your best interest to disclose your smoking history to your insurance agent or carrier.

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

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

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

What If I Start Smoking After The Start Of My Policy?

Once you buy a 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. 

With Bestow, preferred non-tobacco classes are available for mild recreation cannabis users.

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, bidis, 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. 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 both in your budget and offers enough coverage to help give you and your loved ones some peace of mind.

Bestow offers term life insurance with coverage for five, ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, and thirty years to both non-smokers and smokers. Our application process is fully 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 quote. If you like what you see, apply now and, if approved, you could have coverage by the end of the day.