Life Insurance For Smokers In 2024

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Written by Bob Phillips
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If you’re a smoker that is wondering about your options for getting life insurance, you’ve arrived at the right place. The world of insurance can sometimes be confusing as well as complicated, but don’t worry, we’re here to help. This article was designed to demystify life insurance for smokers, with clear, comprehensive information that will guide you to the best decision for your situation.

Advancements in the realm of medicine have added valuable knowledge about smoking and smokers, which has altered the insurance landscape in a big way. Many insurance providers offer term life insurance as well as whole life options for smokers. We’ll delve into these options, and look at how to qualify for life insurance if you smoke, coverage details, and more, to assist you in getting the most suitable policy for your needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Smokers can get life insurance although premiums may be higher

  • Term life insurance might be your best option for more economical coverage

  • Most insurers will classify you as a smoker if you use nicotine in any form, including vaping

Can Smokers Get Life Insurance?

Yes, smokers can get life insurance coverage. You should note, however, that your options might be limited and that in all probability, your premium will be higher than a non-smoker.

There are various key factors that will affect what type of life insurance you can get. As a general rule, insurance companies have strict guidelines for smokers, and not every insurance provider offers policies to tobacco, or nicotine, users. There are typically more restrictions that go along with life insurance in these situations, so you should be prepared to answer questions and undergo a medical exam..

Important: Life insurance for smokers is available, though the coverage might be limited and potentially more expensive.

How Does Being A Smoker Affect My Life Insurance Eligibility?

If you smoke or use nicotine, your eligibility for life insurance will almost certainly be affected. As mentioned previously, not all life insurance providers will offer coverage to individuals who are smokers. Those that do provide coverage will probably have a complex and more extensive underwriting process than average.

You could be denied a life insurance policy as a smoker if you also have certain medical conditions, such as diseases related to smoking. You could also have your application for coverage denied if you falsify your application and lie about using tobacco or nicotine.

You can expect to pay higher rates than a non-smoker. That’s because tobacco use is a known health risk that affects your life expectancy. When life insurance providers set rates, life expectancy is a major factor.

Important: A life insurance policy can’t be rescinded or have the rates raised if you begin smoking after the policy has been issued.

Life Insurance Underwriting Process For Smokers

When you locate a life insurance carrier that provides coverage for smokers, you can bet you’ll undergo a strict qualification process and pay higher rates than a non-smoker.

The insurance company’s underwriters will assess and evaluate a variety of factors, including:

  • Your age
  • Your weight
  • Your gender
  • Your overall health
  • Your history of smoking
  • Your use of tobacco or nicotine in other forms
  • Your drug use, if any
  • Your use of alcohol, if any

If you can demonstrate that you haven’t used tobacco or nicotine in a year or longer, you shouldn’t have much of a problem getting coverage. Different insurance providers have different rules and restrictions about smokers, but as a general rule, a year is the standard time to be tobacco and nicotine free.

If you’re tempted to lie about it, don’t. There are several tests that underwriting might include in your medical exam that will expose your falsehood. Besides blood tests, there is a saliva test, urine samples, and even samples of your hair which can reveal if you have used tobacco or nicotine as far back as a year.

Insurers also test for cotinine, which is an alkaloid found in your body after it metabolizes nicotine. So it’s a clear indication of nicotine usage.

What Do Life Insurance Companies Consider When You’re A Smoker?

When you’re a smoker and making an application for life insurance, you should be aware that there are multiple factors insurance providers will look at, including:

  • Overall health
  • Age
  • Medications
  • History of smoking
  • Familial history of cancer
  • A recent cholesterol and lipid test result
  • Chronic health conditions
  • A recent blood pressure recorded at a medical facility
  • History of stroke, addiction, or cancer

One of the most important things to a prospective insurer is how long you have been a smoker or using tobacco products or nicotine. One of the other most important factors is if you have ceased smoking and if so, how long ago.

Best Type Of Life Insurance If You’re A Smoker

If you are a smoker, you can still obtain life insurance. Here are some of the most viable options for you:

Guaranteed Whole Life

You don’t have to undergo a medical examination for a Guaranteed Whole Life insurance policy, which is generally available for people 45 to 85 years old. It provides you with life insurance coverage, but expect to pay more due to the much  higher risk associated with being a smoker.

Term Life

Term Life Insurance is the most budget friendly life insurance available to you if you’re a smoker. It will cost more than standard life insurance, but you’ll have coverage.

No Medical Exam

Most smokers can qualify for a “No Medical” life insurance policy. This coverage doesn’t require you to undergo a medical exam, which makes it an attractive option for smokers.

Group Life

Group life insurance is usually offered through an employer. If you’re a smoker and have access to this type of life insurance, it’s probably your best option as there is no medical exam and everyone is accepted, regardless of health condition or lifestyle.


Important: Living benefit riders can also be a lifeline for individuals who are smokers. These optional additions to your policy can allow you to access a portion of your death benefit while still alive to help cover treatment expenses.

How To Buy Life Insurance If You’re A Smoker

If you follow these four simple steps, they will help simplify the process of securing life insurance if you’re a smoker:

Research Your Options

You should start by researching insurers that provide coverage for smokers. Numerous insurance carriers offer both term and whole life insurance, so it’s important to know the differences between the two types and be able to make an informed decision about which is best for you.


Understand The Underwriting Process

In order to qualify for coverage from an insurer, you must go through an underwriting process. There will be questions to answer plus a medical examination. These things are done to make sure you are an acceptable risk before being issued life insurance coverage. If you’re a smoker, the underwriting process may be more complicated and could mean higher premiums.


Considering Group Coverage

If group life insurance is available to you through your employer, it may well be your best option. Group policies usually offer coverage regardless of your health conditions without an exam, even if you’re a smoker.


Applying For Coverage

After you have researched and chosen an insurance company and a policy that seems to fit your needs, complete an application for coverage. This might include filling out health questionnaires plus a medical exam and access to your medical records.


How Much Does Life Insurance Cost If You’re A Smoker?

According to statistics, smokers pay on average 286% more than non-smokers for the same coverage. A 30 year old female purchasing a $500,000, 20 year term life policy, for instance, might pay an extra $10,200 during the course of the policy compared to a 30 year old female non-smoker.

The chart below shows rates for a $500,000  20 year term life insurance policy.

Gender and Age Non-smoking Average Rate Smoking Average Rate Rate Increase for Smokers
Male Age 30 $302 $829 2.7 times higher
Male Age 40 $398 $1532 3.9 times higher
Female Age 30 $282 $671 2.4 times higher
Female Age 40 $345 $1200 3.5 times higher

How To Qualify For Life Insurance If You’re A Smoker

If you’re a smoker who wants to secure a life insurance policy, here are a few things you need to know:

  1. Quitting Smoking: To be classified as a non-smoker for life insurance purposes, you normally need to have quit smoking for a minimum of one year. Quitting earlier can greatly reduce your premiums.
  2. Tobacco Types: All types of tobacco use matter to life insurance providers. This includes cigars,  cigarettes,  bidis, vaping, and e-cigarettes.
  3. Rates and Eligibility: Smokers are able to secure life insurance, but rates are considerably more than non-smokers. Life insurers determine rates based on risk, and smoking raises mortality rates. You could pay 2-3 times more for a policy if you’re a smoker.
  4. Testing for Nicotine: Insurers will routinely test for nicotine using cotinine, an indicator of nicotine use, during the medical examination. If you’re a smoker, they’ll almost certainly find out.
  5. Medical Examination: Most insurance companies will require a medical exam. Some policies let you forgo the examination, but they typically are more costly.

Can Insurance Companies Deny Coverage Because You Had A Heart Attack?

Yes, insurance companies can and sometimes do deny coverage, depending on circumstances. This generally happens when an applicant has falsified or failed to disclose their health condition in the course of the underwriting process. It also sometimes happens if the underwriter decides that an applicant’s health condition is too risky to insure.

You should understand that smokers have a higher rate cost for insurance than non-smokers, simply because there are many health conditions related to smoking, as well as increased mortality.

Whether an insurer chooses to issue coverage to smokers is up to their specific guidelines.

What Will Insurers Ask About Your Condition?

Insurance providers will have multiple questions for applicants who are smokers.

If this applies to you, here are some standard questions you should be prepared to answer during the underwriting process:

  • What type of tobacco or nicotine do you use?
  • How long have you been using tobacco or nicotine?
  • If you use cigarettes, how many do you smoke daily?
  • Have you tried to quit smoking or using tobacco/nicotine?
  • Do you smoke marijuana?
  • If you have quit smoking, when was the date you last smoked?
  • Do you have any significant health conditions?
  • How much do you weigh?
  • What is your physical activity level?What is your BMI?
  • How old are you?

Along with these routine questions for smokers who apply for life insurance, an insurer will probably also inquire about your family history of stroke, heart attack or cancer.

Life Insurance Options If You’re Denied Coverage Because You’re A Smoker

What options are available to you if you’ve been denied life insurance coverage because you’re a smoker?

  • If you have access to a group policy offered through your employer, this will probably be your best option for life insurance as a smoker. Besides being more economical premium wise, it’s also guaranteed issue, typically with no medical examination..
  • Ask your doctor to record your progress in managing your overall health. If you have lost weight, lowered your cholesterol, made healthy lifestyle changes — particularly smoking cessation methods—have your doctor make note of all this so that you can show the insurer you’re making an effort to stop smoking and better your health..
  • Check into obtaining a Guaranteed Acceptance policy. You can’t be denied coverage with this type of policy, which means it’s a good option if you’ve been denied a policy with other insurance companies.
  • Avail yourself of the services of an agent or broker. These people are experts about insurance and can be invaluable at helping you find life insurance if you’re a smoker, usually at no charge to you.
  • Get online and start shopping around, comparing rates of several insurance companies that do offer life insurance to smokers. The sample quotes you may get aren’t written in stone, and might not be your ultimate premium, but you can at least get an idea of how much coverage you can purchase at what price.

Important: Guaranteed issue policies are an excellent option if other companies have denied your application for whole, universal, or term life insurance policies.

Tips For Choosing The Right Policy

Here are three handy tips that may help shorten your search for life insurance if you are a smoker:

  1. Understand Your Needs: You need a clear understanding of your financial needs in order to know how much life insurance to purchase. So, calculate your debts that will need to be paid, future expenses such as college funds for your children, along with income replacement.
  2. Explore Various Policy Types: Familiarize yourself with various types of life insurance policies such as Guaranteed Issue life insurance and Graded Death Benefit policies. These have been specifically designed for smokers and others that are considered to be high risk. Group life insurance is one type that usually issues coverage regardless of your health condition or tobacco use status.
  3. Use Specialized Services: Use specialized services like Insuranceopedia, which provides you with quotes from various insurers to help compare rates. This will be of great assistance to you in locating a suitable policy for your needs that fits your budget.

Information About Smokers And Smoking

What do insurance companies consider smoking? Cigarettes are an obvious culprit, of course. But there are actually numerous other forms of tobacco or nicotine use that can mark you as a smoker, nicotine user or tobacco user when you’re applying for life insurance. Here are some of the types of tobacco or nicotine delivery methods that will rate you as a smoker with an insurer:

  • Heated tobacco products
  • Pipes
  • Bidis
  • Dissolvable tobacco
  • Cigars
  • Chewing tobacco
  • Vaping
  • E-cigarettes
  • Hookahs
  • Snuff
  • Nicotine replacement therapies such as lozenges. patches, inhalers  gum, or nasal sprays

Here’s a heads up: If you use marijuana you may be considered a smoker, depending on how often you use it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that smoking causes disability and disease, harming almost every organ in the body. Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and COPD, (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) including emphysema as well as chronic bronchitis.

Considering the negative health connections associated with smoking and its increased mortality, it’s easy to see why insurers take a long look at an applicant’s smoking or tobacco use when evaluating for a life insurance policy.

Individuals who smoke or use other types of tobacco can expect to pay quite a lot more for life insurance than non-smokers. Also, you might be declined if you have a disease or medical condition that is smoking or tobacco use related.

According to ExamOne, a company that conducts medical examinations for insurers, approximately 43% of life insurance applicants fail to disclose their tobacco use. This stat is based on how many people said they didn’t smoke or use tobacco in any form, but had cotinine in their test analysis.

Life insurance companies have an understandable interest in ferreting out smokers who aren’t being honest, since according to Verisk they lose about $3.4 billion a year in premiums because of undisclosed tobacco use.

Other Health Concerns That Can Affect Your Life Insurance

When you apply for life insurance, insurance carriers will make an assessment of your health to determine what kind of risk they’ll be taking to insure you. Below is a list of 17 common health conditions that could have a big impact on your life insurance coverage:

  • Substance Use Disorders: A history of drug and/or alcohol abuse may affect insurability
  • High Blood Pressure: Well controlled high blood pressure may have less impact on your insurance policy
  • High Cholesterol: High cholesterol can lead to higher rates if not well managed
  • Cancer: Depending on the type and stage, cancer can affect insurability
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: This chronic condition can bring increased premiums
  • Liver Disease: Conditions such as cirrhosis can impact your life insurance premium
  • Asthma: Depending on the severity, asthma may affect insurance premiums
  • Depression: Mental health conditions such as depression can affect coverage
  • HIV/AIDS: With modern strides in medical treatment, a lot of insurers now offer policies to HIV-positive individuals
  • Obesity: Higher BMI can result in increased insurance costs
  • Diabetes: Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes may increase premiums
  • Sleep Apnea: Can cause higher insurance rates if not well managed
  • Heart Disease: A common condition that may mean higher premiums or denial of coverage
  • Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease can lead to increased insurance costs
  • Stroke: A history of stroke may cause higher premium rates
  • Alzheimer’s/Dementia: These conditions can affect insurability
  • Lung Disease: Chronic conditions such as COPD may increase insurance rates


Do smokers qualify for life insurance?

Yes, although not every insurance company will issue coverage to smokers.

What insurance is best for smokers?

If you’re a smoker and have been denied standard life insurance, there are other options available. For example, a guaranteed issue life insurance policy may be a good option for smokers.

Are smokers classed as having a critical illness in insurance?

As a general rule, no. A smoker isn’t typically considered as having a critical illness unless the person has a smoking-related illness such as emphysema or lung cancer.


  • Bankrate – Tobacco and life insurance: here’s what you should know
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