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The Cost of Life Insurance for Smokers

Table of Contents

Smoking is a habit that can impact multiple areas of your life, including what you pay for life insurance. Your health is one of the primary factors that insurance companies look at when assigning you a rate, and smoking is known to have a major effect on your health. In fact, the United States Surgeon General reports that over 16 million Americans suffer from smoking-related diseases.

That’s why smoking makes a huge difference when it comes to life insurance applications. After all, life insurance companies assign rates based on your overall risk of death when providing you with death benefit protection.

It’s unfortunate, but smokers are at a higher risk of developing a high risk of illness that can lead to early death versus someone who does not smoke at all. Anything that raises your risk of death will raise your life insurance rates, which means smoking will always result in a higher rate. Because of the high-risk smoking carries, most companies assign smokers to their own rate classes. The rate classes for smokers carry higher premiums than the premiums for non-smokers. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t get a great policy at a great price if you smoke. While your prices are likely always higher and a non-smoker, you still have options. Our guide will walk you through buying life insurance when you’re a smoker.

Keep reading to learn what to expect when you apply, what prices you can see, and how companies view other tobacco products outside of smoking cigarettes.

Life Insurance Rates for Smokers

Smokers can expect to pay higher rates for life insurance. In general, someone who uses cigarettes or any other form of tobacco can plan to pay about two to three times more for life insurance compared to someone who doesn’t.

Along with tobacco use, your final price will also depend on the company you choose, your overall health, gender, age, lifestyle habits, along other factors, but smoking will play a huge role.

A smoker will pay more than a non-smoker even if all other factors are the same. So, let’s say hypothetically that two identical applicants applied for the exact same life insurance coverage. Each of the two applicants had excellent health, are the same age, wanted the same amount of coverage, and had very safe hobbies.

The only difference is that one of them smoked cigarettes and the other one didn’t. So each applicant would get a great rate based on their age, health, and lifestyle, but the smoker would receive a much higher rate because of the proven fact that smoking causes a greater risk of developing health risks and reduces life expectancy.

How would the insurance company determine the rate for each applicant?

Life insurance companies assign each application a rate classification after the underwriting process has been completed. The exact names of the rate classifications can vary from company to company, but they’ll generally fall into one of the following five categories:

Preferred Plus – This rate classification is the top rate classification and will result in the lowest premiums for coverage. It is reserved only for the healthiest applicants. There are no medical issues past or present, and they also have an excellent height and weight for their age. Must be at least five years tobacco-free to qualify for this rate classification.

Preferred – This rate classification is the second best that an applicant can receive. Most healthy applicants will meet the preferred rate class, and premiums will be slightly higher than the preferred plus. Generally need to be at least two years tobacco-free to qualify for this rate classification.

Standard Plus – Standard plus is a rate classification for people generally in good health but might have a single controlled health condition or are slightly outside the standard height and weight guidelines. Generally need to be at least one-year tobacco-free to qualify for this rate classification.

Standard – The standard rate classification is for people in average health, but like standard plus, they may have a minor medical condition or two that would prevent qualification for the other rate classes. People in this classification will pay the company’s base rates for life insurance coverage. Generally need to be at least one-year tobacco-free to qualify for this rate classification.

Substandard – An applicant with a history of high-risk health conditions may be approved for a substandard risk class depending on the severity of the health risk. Premiums for this rate class will be the highest as the insurance company often takes on a large risk if they can offer a policy. Substandard rate classes have both non-tobacco and tobacco options.

As you might have noticed from the five above rate classifications, only the substandard classification offers approval to tobacco users. However, substandard rates are expensive and wouldn’t be fair to someone who currently uses tobacco and has no major medical issues.

Therefore, tobacco users will fall into their own rate classifications, known as the tobacco classification. Most insurance companies utilize two tobacco rate classifications of a preferred smoker and a standard smoker. Qualification for one of the two tobacco rate classifications will depend on a few underwriting factors, primarily health and current weight and height standards. 

Smoker rate classifications:

Preferred Smoker – This is the top rate classification that smokers and tobacco users can qualify for. The rates for coverage will be the lowest for a current tobacco user seeking coverage. 

Standard Smoker – The standard tobacco class is the second and only other rate class for which a tobacco user can qualify except for a substandard rating. A standard rate class approval is likely given to an applicant with minor health risks outside the allowable height and weight limits for preferred tobacco.

So, let’s look back at the example above to get an idea of how much of a difference in cost compared to a non-smoker rate class versus a smoker rates class.

Let’s say there are two applicants age 40 applying for the same life insurance coverage. Each applicant is applying for a 10-year $500,000 term life insurance policy.

The non-smoking applicant gets assigned the preferred non-smoker rate classification, and they receive a final premium of $23 a month.

Applicant two is a smoker but has no health issues. However, they are a smoker and are assigned a preferred smoker rate classification. Because they are a smoker, they receive a higher rate of $77 a month.

Although both applicants are nearly the same, the applicant that uses tobacco will always pay higher rates due to the health risks associated with tobacco use versus an applicant that does not use tobacco products.

It doesn’t matter if you smoke a single cigarette a day or make it through several packs each week. All smoking will automatically affect your rates with most companies.

Additionally, the use of other types of tobacco, such as chewing tobacco or vaping, will also raise your rates with most companies. So even if you’re not a pack-a-day smoker, you still need to know how life insurance companies view smoking.

Non-Smoker vs Smoker Term Life Insurance Rates

Your rate classification, determined when underwriting has been fully completed, will determine your final rates for coverage. There is no doubt that smokers and tobacco users, in general, will pay a higher cost for life insurance coverage.

To provide you with an example of how much more a smoker will pay than a non-smoker, we have put together the following rate table representing the cost of term life insurance for smokers over 40 versus non-smokers over 40.

For example purposes, the below table shows the monthly term life insurance rates for a 10-year term life insurance plan using a death benefit of $500,000 for both males and females.

Non-Smokers vs Smokers Over Age 40

MalePreferred Non-SmokerPreferred SmokerFemalePreferred Non-SmokerPreferred Smoker
Age 40$22.66$76.92Age 40$19.78$61.62
Age 45$33.97$120.27Age 45$29.72$93.49
Age 50$51.17$175.52Age 50$42.16$138.54
Age 55$79.64$280.49Age 55$61.34$187.42
Age 60$128.49$429.24Age 60$92.43$296.22
Age 65$234.54$710.17Age 65$143.39$451.07
Age 70$404.82$1,085.02Age 70$235.87$697.40
Age 75$769.85$1,880.20Age 75$502.40$1,090.76
Age 80$1,605.63$4,645.94Age 80$1,251.69$3,075.19

Monthly male/female premium rates current as of 07/28/2021 representing the cost of a 10-year $500,000 term life insurance policy for both preferred non-smokers and preferred smokers.

Life Insurance and Other Forms of Tobacco Use

All smoking can raise your rates, but does that mean that all types of tobacco raise your rates as well?

Cigarettes are not the only tobacco product the can land you in the smoking rate classifications. You can also end up with tobacco rates if you use other forms of tobacco or cannabis.

However, not all insurance companies handle all forms of tobacco the same way, and some providers may actually offer a non-tobacco rate class using certain tobacco products.

This is very important as applying with a life insurance company that will be beneficial based on your tobacco habits may save you thousands of dollars over the course of having your life insurance coverage.

Below is a look at the many different forms of tobacco products and how they can affect your life insurance rates. In addition, if you are a current user of any of the following products, we will give you a massive insider tip on which of the life insurance providers may offer a non-tobacco rate classification based on any current use of the following tobacco products.

Chewing Tobacco

Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobacco such as snuff, dip, and snus are nearly always viewed the same as cigarette smoking by most insurance companies.

Although chewing tobacco may offer a much lesser risk of developing lung cancer, there are still many other potential health effects that chewing tobacco and cigarette smoking share. Both forms of tobacco still pose a high risk of developing many different forms of cancer throughout the body, so insurance companies consider them equally risky.

Just like cigarette smoking, the use of chewing tobacco will show up in your bloodwork and urine sample. In fact, once the tobacco is processed in your body, there is no difference from if you had smoked it. Nicotine will show up in the same way that cigarettes would on the lab results from the life insurance exam. 

However, if you only use chewing tobacco and never smoke cigarettes, you should mention it to your life insurance company. While most companies view these two habits the same, some will offer current tobacco chewers or smokeless tobacco users a non-tobacco rate classification.

You must admit your chewing tobacco use on both the life insurance application and the medical exam. However, as long as you are upfront, the below smokeless tobacco-friendly life insurance companies may offer a non-tobacco rating even with a positive test result for nicotine.

Best life insurance companies for tobacco chewers

The following life insurance companies can potentially offer non-smoker life insurance rates with the daily use of chewing tobacco, snuff, or dip. Therefore, these life insurance companies should be your first choice if you use any smokeless tobacco products, as they will result in the largest savings for life insurance coverage.

CINCINNATI LIFE: Will allow for daily use of smokeless chewing tobacco with positive nicotine reading in the labs as long as tobacco use is admitted on the application. The highest rate classification that a smokeless chewing tobacco user can receive with Cincinnati Life is a standard plus.

LINCOLN FINANCIAL: Allowed to use smokeless tobacco daily with positive nicotine in lab results. Must admit use on the life insurance application. The highest rate classification for smokeless chewing tobacco with Lincoln Financial is standard.

PRUDENTIAL: The use of daily smokeless tobacco with Prudential is ok as long as it is admitted on the application. May test positive for nicotine on the lab results. The highest rate classification for smokeless tobacco with Prudential is a standard plus.

Cigars and Pipes

Daily use of a cigar or pipe smoking will likely result in approval as smoker rates. But, on the contrary, life insurance companies are much more lenient if you occasionally use this form of tobacco.

How much your rates will be affected by cigar and pipe smoking depends on how often you smoke them. Generally, you can get away with smoking an occasional cigar or pipe at least once a month for it not to affect your rates. So, if you enjoy a cigar on your birthday holidays or at a social gathering, you won’t get assigned smoker rates by most companies.

However, if that birthday cigar was within the 10 days before your life insurance exam, it will show up in your blood work. This is because, just like smoking a cigarette, the nicotine and cotinine from cigars and pipes show up in your bloodstream in the same way.

Although most life insurance providers will allow occasional cigar use, they still want to see the labs negative for any nicotine. If the labs show positive for nicotine, you may be assigned a smoker-rated life insurance policy. So if you’re thinking of applying for life insurance soon, hold off on that celebratory pipe.

Best life insurance companies for cigar smokers

Most life insurance companies will allow for daily cigar use as long as the lab results are negative for nicotine. Your rate classification will generally depend on the number of cigars smoked in a specified timeframe determined by the life insurance company’s underwriting guidelines.

The below table represents how some of the largest life insurance companies view occasional cigar and pipe use along with the best potential rate classification you can receive based on the frequency of tobacco use.

ProviderPipe UseCigar UseLab ResultRate Classification
AIGTobacco Rates1x per weekNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
ANICOTobacco Rates2x per monthNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
AssurityTobacco Rates12x per yearNegative for nicotineStandard Plus
Banner LifeTobacco Rates1x per monthNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
Cincinnati LifeDaily use allowedDaily use allowedPositive test allowedStandard Plus
ForestersTobacco Rates12x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred
Lincoln FinancialDaily use allowedDaily use allowedPositive test allowedStandard
Minnesota Life24x per year24x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred
Mutual of OmahaTobacco Rates24x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
NationwideTobacco Rates5x per monthNegative for nicotinePreferred
North AmericanTobacco Rates24x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred
Pacific LifeTobacco Rates12x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
PrincipalTobacco Rates24x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred
ProtectiveTobacco Rates24x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred
PrudentialDaily use allowedDaily use allowedPositive test allowedStandard Plus
SBLITobacco Rates12x per yearNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus
TransamericaTobacco Rates1x per monthNegative for nicotinePreferred Plus

The above table represents the best rate class for someone who smokes an occasional cigar. The table does not factor in other underwriting factors that can change the rate classification, such as age, gender, and health. 


Hookah is another nicotine product that is often consumed only on special occasions. Many people enjoy visiting hookah bars and lounges and part of a night out. Just like cigars and pipes, if you’re someone who visits a hookah bar only a few times a year, it won’t affect your rates. However, if you visit hookah bars regularly or smoke hookah at home, you will get smoker rates.

Plus, just like pipes and cigars, timing matters. The nicotine and cotinine from hookah will remain in your bloodstream just as long as standard cigarettes. So it’s not a good idea to plan your first visit to a hookah bar during the same week as your life insurance medical exam.

Vaping and E-Cigarettes

Vaping and E-Cigarettes are fairly new ways to consume nicotine. The rules for how these products factor into life insurance depend on the company and could change with time.

There is still a lot of research that needs to be done on the long-term health effects of these cigarette alternatives. As more data becomes clear, insurance companies might adjust how they handle vaping or e-cigarettes.

Currently, all insurance companies consider all forms of e-cigarettes to be a type of smoking. That means you’ll be assigned to a smoker rate if you use any of these products.

Marijuana / Cannabis

Cannabis use is a complicated area for life insurance companies. Until recently, cannabis use was classed alongside other illegal drug usages in applications and medical exams.

However, this is rapidly changing. As you probably know, multiple states have made the use of cannabis legal in the past few years. Many additional states are expected to pass similar laws.

With all these changes happening, insurance companies are coming up with new underwriting standards for marijuana users. This is especially true in states where cannabis is legal for recreational use and medical reasons.

In addition to how you use marijuana being a factor in how it will affect your rates, the frequency of using marijuana will be the largest factor in your approval classification.

Occasional marijuana use with multiple life insurance providers can result in a non-tobacco life insurance policy. People who prefer to smoke their cannabis frequently are likely to receive smoker rates. The use of marijuana daily will often result in a decline in life insurance coverage altogether.

You may be wondering if there is any difference between smoking marijuana or ingesting marijuana through edibles or liquid form. Whether you smoke marijuana or ingest marijuana, most life insurance companies will not view it differently.

The insurance company will pay attention to admitted frequency and will be able to judge the frequency based on your THC levels from the medical exam.

Even if your edibles are medically prescribed, the reason you take marijuana might be more of a factor than the marijuana itself for some companies.

For example, if your prescription treats your pain from a serious medical condition, your rates will increase due to the medical condition rather than the prescribed medical marijuana.

Top 5 best life insurance companies for marijuana smokers

Like cigar use, frequency and the outcome of the medical exam urinalysis will play the largest role on whether you will be considered at non-smoker rates, smoker rates, or even a potential decline with excessive use depending on the provider.

Rather than listing how each life insurance company views marijuana use, we will choose the top five best life insurance companies for moderate marijuana use. If you use marijuana seldomly, like on social occasions such as once a month or less, most life insurance companies will still consider you at the best non-tobacco rates.

The following companies are our top choice for people who enjoy marijuana a little more than occasionally.

Lincoln Financial: Marijuana use up to x2 per week qualifies for preferred non-smoker rates. 

Mutual of Omaha: Admitted marijuana use of 12x per month or less can qualify for a standard non-smoker rate classification. 

Nationwide: Marijuana use of up to 12-15x per month will potentially qualify for standard non-smoker rates. Any amount less than 12x per month will result in a better rate classification. Marijuana vaping is considered smoker rates no matter the frequency. THC on labs is ok as well.

North American: Admitted marijuana use of up to 6x per month can qualify for standard non-smoker rates. Lesser amounts of use throughout the year are likely to qualify for the preferred rate classification.

Pacific Life: Admitted marijuana use of up to 4x per week could qualify for standard non-tobacco rates. Preferred rate consideration for applicants that use lesser amounts is highly possible.

Smoking Cessation Products

It might sound unfair, but even products you’re using to try to quit smoking will show up in your urine sample and bloodwork and lead to higher rates.

This includes nicotine gums, patches, and other smoking cessation products. In this case, the problem isn’t the products themselves. The problem is that the use of these products means you’ve quit smoking very recently or are in the process of quitting.

Most life insurance companies will require at least a year tobacco-free before you can be given a non-smoking rating. So, for many companies, the fact that you’re still using a smoking cessation product signifies that you haven’t been smoke-free long enough to qualify for non-smoking rates.

It also shows that your body is still receiving nicotine and will appear as a positive reading for nicotine on the medical exam. Therefore, all life insurance companies will approve applicants that use smoking cessation products as a tobacco rating.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is very unlikely to show up in your blood work or urine sample. Even if you live with a smoker or work with smokers, it won’t appear in your life insurance medical exam. You’re not a smoker in this case, and the life insurance company will not class you as one.

However, repeated exposure to secondhand smoke can damage your health. You won’t get a smoker rate, but your medical exam results could still be affected. For example, secondhand smoke exposure is linked to increased cardiovascular risks and other health problems such as lung cancer.

How Life Insurance Companies Test for Nicotine

You’ll be asked about your nicotine use when you apply for life insurance. The application will want to know details about your smoking habits and any other tobacco use, including:

  • If you are currently using tobacco products
  • The type of tobacco products you use
  • Frequency and the amount of tobacco use
  • The last time the tobacco product was used

You’ll then need to undergo a life insurance medical exam. During the medical exam, you’ll have a blood draw and urine sample collected. The insurance company will test both of these samples for signs of smoking. Specifically, they’ll be looking for the presence of nicotine and cotinine along with signs of any other elevated lab results.

Cotinine is a byproduct that forms in your body after the use of nicotine products. It can also form in small amounts through second-hand smoke. While nicotine only stays in your body for up to 3 days, cotinine can last as long as 7-10 days before your liver eliminates it.

Your urine and blood sample will also reveal if you’ve recently used any smoking cessation products. You will be assigned smokers rates if you test positive for nicotine or have an elevated cotinine result.

In addition to your blood and urine samples, the insurance company might look at other data to see if you’re a smoker. For example, while not commonly a routine underwriting requirement for healthy applicants, the insurance company may look at medical records to see if your doctor has ever noted smoking.

The life insurance medical is not the only information the insurance company might use to determine if you smoke. Information from past life insurance applications stored by the Medical Information Bureau (MIB) can reveal information outcomes of any insurance application in the past seven years.

That means that you can’t just go cold turkey and stop smoking for a week or two before your life insurance exam and claim to be a nonsmoker.

The insurance company is likely to figure it out during the understanding process. Your application can be denied if the insurance company determines you were a smoker when you claimed not to be on your application.

Quitting Smoking:

There’s help available if you’re ready to quit smoking. You can check out the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ SmokeFree.Gov website for resources that can help you make a plan and stick to it. You can even live chat with someone to get support. If you prefer to talk to someone over the phone, you can call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Being Honest On Your Life Insurance Application About Smoking

While it’s understandable to be tempted, it’s never a good idea to lie on a life insurance application for any reason. But, unfortunately, some people may think that a small lie on their life insurance application is worth it for the money they’ll save in premiums.

This is especially true when you compare the cost of non-smokers rates versus the rates that smokers will pay for their life insurance coverage.

It’s easy to think the insurance company won’t find out, and it won’t matter. There is even the possibility that you could get away with it. However, this is incredibly dangerous and puts a large risk on your beneficiary of potentially not receiving the death benefit payout if you pass.

When an insurance company takes on a customer for life insurance coverage, they are on the line for a lot of money. Life insurance policies can have a death benefit value of a few thousand dollars and go as high as several million dollars.

Multiply that by hundreds or thousands of policyholders, and a single life insurance company can be on the line for millions or even billions in potential death benefit payouts.

With so much risk on the insurance company, they will do everything to ensure they are underwriting to the fullest to avoid potential errors in insuring applicants incorrectly. 

There will be questions about smoking on every single life insurance application. In addition, if the insurance company requires a medical exam, they will test your urine and blood for the presence of nicotine.

So, there’s no way not to smoke that day or even in the handful of days before your exam and think that you won’t have a positive nicotine test. If you’re a smoker, it will show up.

When an insurance company finds information out during your exam or the underwriting process that contradicts what you put on your application, it can lead to denial of a policy with the company.

That might not sound like a big deal, but it can actually have lasting effects. For example, if denied a policy, it will be recorded with the MIB, which tracks the history and outcome of past life insurance applications. That means any insurance company you apply with in the future will be able to see your denial and will require an explanation of the denial with the previous company.

Even if you manage to get through the exam, and are approved, lying about smoking could still have serious consequences. For example, all life insurance policies have a two-year contestability period.

If you pass away during the first two years of having your life insurance policy, the insurance company has the legal right to investigate the death claim. If the cause of your death is found to be smoking-related, the company could deny the payout of your policy.

This means your beneficiary won’t’ receive your death benefit. By lying about smoking on your application, you could leave your loved ones without the security of your policy. So don’t do it as it is totally not worth the potential risk if you get caught.

Frequently Asked Questions About Life Insurance for Smokers

Buying life insurance as a smoker can be complicated. So we at No Medical Exam Quotes like to make life insurance a lot less complicated for everyone by offering extensive FAQ sections to help our online visitors get the answers to their questions without having to look all over the internet.

Below is a compilation of questions about life insurance for smokers. If there is a question about life insurance and tobacco use that we missed answering, please be sure to let us know. We can answer your questions and add them to the below list to help others.

How can I get affordable life insurance as a smoker?

There is no way around it, life insurance for smokers is going to be expensive. Being a smoker will affect your life insurance rates resulting in an increased cost of 3-4x more than the cost of a nonsmoker.

You will also need to factor in the cost difference between all the different life insurance providers that will offer smoker life insurance policy which can be dozens of providers. Those rates can have a cost difference that can range from 1-2x the cost amongst each other.

When trying to find an affordable life insurance policy, we always recommend working with an agent, especially one that can provide you with rates from multiple providers.

An agent with access to multiple providers will not only be able to shop rates, but they will have firsthand knowledge of which providers they work with can offer the perks and underwriting that fits your needs.

Can a smoker qualify for a no medical exam life insurance policy?

Smokers and users of other forms of tobacco are eligible to qualify for non-medical exam life insurance provided they meet the age range for the underwriting option.

Most no medical underwriting options with term life insurance plans are available to applicants age 18-65. Coverage amounts can range from as low as $25,000 to as high as $1,000,000 with multiple term contracts.

Senior plans such as final expense life insurance never require a medical exam as these plans are underwritten using simplified underwriting guidelines. That means approval is primarily based on answers to the health questions listed within the actual life insurance application.

However, those life insurance plans are best for those looking for permanent life insurance to cover funeral expenses. The death benefit is generally limited to $25,000 or less.

What if I buy life insurance now and quit smoking later?

This is an important question that can save you a lot of money if you purchased a life insurance policy while a smoker or using any other form of tobacco and later quit using tobacco.

It is the very reason why it’s so crucial to review your life insurance coverage at least every few years with a good old fashion life insurance policy review conducted with a life insurance agent.

If you were classified as a smoker when you originally purchased your life insurance policy and have been tobacco-free for at least one year, nearly all life insurance companies allow for what is referred to as a rate reconsideration.

A rate reconsideration is a request you can make to the insurance company if you have improved your health or have had a lifestyle that would positively change your originally approved rate classification.

For example, a rate reconsideration may include improving your cholesterol, blood pressure, weight loss, or going from a smoker to a non-smoker. The insurance company will review your request and potentially request a new medical exam as part of the process.

If your rate reconsideration is approved, the insurance company will adjust your rate classification and your premiums to match what the cost for coverage would have been when you originally purchased your policy.

Do any life insurance companies offer a quit smoking incentive program?

If you’re a current smoker looking for life insurance and have a strong goal of quitting in the near future, you may want to look into John Hancock and their unique Quit Smoking Incentive (QSI) program.

The Quit Smoking Incentive program allows current smokers to receive non-smoker life insurance rates during the first three policy years.

During the first three policy years, the policyholder must provide satisfactory evidence of having quit smoking for at least 12 consecutive months and be required to take a urinalysis to prove labs are free of nicotine and metabolites.

John Hancocks Quit Smoking Inventive will not be for everyone. First, the option is only available to applicants age 20-70. Secondly, the program is only available on select John Hancock permanent life insurance plans. 

Permanent life insurance can be costly and not an insurance option that makes financial sense for most young families with a need for a high amount of death benefit protection.

Also, if a policyholder fails to meet the program guidelines by the end of policy year three, the premium reverts to smoker rates. After three years of paying non-smoker rates and then having to pay smoker rates, it will be a shock to just about anyone.

Since the stop smoking incentive is limited to John Hancock and available on their select permanent life insurance products, current smokers may find it a better option to request a rate reconsideration after being fully non-tobacco free after one full policy year.

The life insurance quit smoking incentive is a great program offered by John Hancock. We can only hope that more life insurance providers follow will in the steps of John Hancock and offer a program similar in nature.

What if I decide to start smoking after I purchase a policy?

Once you have gone through underwriting, have been provided a final rate classification, accepted the terms of your policy, and have paid your first premium payment, your coverage is locked in.

If you decide to become a smoker or use any other form of tobacco after the life insurance policy has been issued and placed inforce, the rate classification will not be changed to a smoker. Your rate classification will be locked in as a non-tobacco user.

How long do I need to quit to be considered a non-smoker?

Most companies will class you as a non-smoker if you haven’t smoked or used tobacco products for one entire year. However, the underwriting rate class for one year tobacco-free is generally standard up to standard plus at best.

So even if you are in absolutely excellent health but have only been tobacco-free for one year, you will not qualify for the preferred rate class. A preferred rate class with most companies requires an applicant to be at least 2-3 years tobacco-free, and for preferred plus, which is the top rate class, no less than 5 years tobacco-free.

If you were a previous smoker that has quit in that last year or longer, it’s a good idea to check a company’s tobacco guidelines before applying. An agent or broker should also help you find companies that are friendly to recent ex-smokers.

Life Insurance Non-Smoker Rate Classification Table

Preferred PlusPreferredStandard PlusStandard
No tobacco past 5-3 yearsNo tobacco past 3-2 yearsNo tobacco past 2-1 yearsNo tobacco past 1 year

Who are the best life insurance companies for ex-smokers?

If you have been smoke-free for one entire year, all life insurance companies will consider you at standard non-smoker rates. There are also a handful of companies that will also consider one year tobacco-free at standard plus rates.

However, one company is the best for smokers with one-year tobacco-free, and that is Nationwide. When most companies view a previous smoker with less than two years since their last cigarette standard rates at best, Nationwide will potentially offer a preferred non-smoker rate classification.

Best life insurance company for ex-smokers with 1-3 years cigarette free:

  • Nationwide

If you are an ex-smoker and in excellent health, with great height and weight, and wondering how you can qualify for preferred plus, then most companies will want you to be at least 5 years tobacco-free.

However, we have a few top-rated life insurance companies who will consider applicants in excellent health and weight with 3 years tobacco-free at their top health classification of preferred plus.

Best life insurance companies for ex-smokers with 3+ years cigarette free:

  • Banner Life
  • Lincoln Financial
  • Mutual of Omaha
  • Securian/Minnesota Life

It’s important to remember that smoking history is only one of several factors determining a final rate classification.

Am I considered a smoker if I only smoke a few times a year?

If you consider yourself a social smoker, most life insurance providers will classify you with a tobacco rating due to admitted use if it has been less than one year since your last cigarette.

However, there is one company that we highly recommend for social smokers who do not want to be classified as a smoker and who do not want to pay smoker’s life insurance rates when smoking a cigarette here and there.

Minnesota Life, a Securian Life Insurance Company, offers a unique underwriting benefit to social smokers who admit to smoking less than 24 cigarettes in a 12 month period as they may qualify for a non-smoker rate classification.

To qualify, you must admit to cigarette or tobacco use on the life insurance application and test negative for both nicotine and cotinine on the life insurance medical exam.

If you’re a social smoker and are in the process of searching for a life insurance company that will offer non-tobacco rates, definitely put Minnesota Life at the top of your list of companies to check out. You can check out their rates here on our website with our online quote tool.

What if I quit smoking several years ago?

Even if it’s been over five years or much longer since your last cigarette, you still need to mention it on an insurance application if it is asked. It won’t affect your rate, but it’s still important to be 100% honest with all life insurance applications.

Should I wait to apply for life insurance if I recently quit smoking?

If you need life insurance and can get a policy, you should never wait. Even though statistics show that it often takes multiple tries to quit smoking for good, those years could be a big deal. Life insurance rates get higher as you age, and a change in health is unpredictable. So, a difference of a full year or longer could mean much higher premiums.

However, if you’re confident you can quit, it might be worth it. For example, if you quit 8 months ago and have been successful, waiting the additional four months to get non-smoker rates with a company that has a one-year benchmark probably isn’t a bad idea. Even if you have a birthday in those few months, it’s still likely to be cheaper to wait.

That said, if you need a policy, don’t wait. It’s better to have a small policy in place while you try to quit than no policy at all, especially if you have dependents. You could take out a smaller policy now and then purchase more coverage once you’ve successfully quit.

If you’re unsure what route to take, an agent or broker can help walk you through your options. They’ll be able to match with companies that are friendly to former smokers. They can also help you with the application process.

Final Thought

Smokers pay more for life insurance. There’s no getting around it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t secure a great policy. On the contrary, you might be surprised by how much coverage you can get and how affordable the premiums are.

Remember, life insurance rates increase as you age, so if you need life insurance and are a smoker, lock in your rates now. Then, if you decide to quit tobacco later, we can request a rate reconsideration to get those lower premiums.

Getting quotes from multiple companies is a great way to start your life insurance shopping. At No Medical Exam Quotes, we can show you quotes from top no exam companies. These companies never ask that you take a medical exam for coverage.

You can complete the process from the comfort of your home by filling out our quick form to get started today.

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Picture of Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert
Jeffrey Manola - Life Insurance Expert

Jeffrey Manola is the founder of No Medical Exam Quotes, an online insurance agency that strongly focuses on helping people shop for the perfect life insurance policy. He is a licensed life insurance expert and content creator for the website.

Before becoming a life insurance agent, he served in the United States Marine Corps, transitioning from serving his country to helping families find affordable life insurance coverage beginning in 2009. Since starting a career as a licensed life insurance agent, Jeffrey has helped thousands of families with their life insurance needs.

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