Best Life Insurance Companies for Smokers

Smoking is one of the risk factors that can affect your insurability to a considerable extent. Choosing the best life insurance company is important for a smoker, as rates can often be cheaper.

Apart from your age and gender, your smoking habit is the most important factor that insurance providers take into account while assigning a risk class for you.

How Does Your Smoking Habit Affect Your Insurability?

Insurance companies decide the cost of a policy (the amount of premium you have to pay) based on your mortality risk and the probability of paying out the death benefit to your beneficiary. The higher the probability, the higher are the costs associated with the policy.

Smoking is known to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, cancer, and a number of other ailments.

It is also known to increase your overall mortality risk. Data from the CDC shows that the lifespan of the average smoker is likely to be 10 years shorter than the lifespan of a non-smoker.

From the point of view of an insurance provider, the probability of paying out a policy’s death benefit increases significantly if the policyholder happens to be a smoker, due to the increased mortality risk. This is why smokers are usually charged a higher rate compared to non-smokers.

At the same time, insurance companies do not club all the smokers together and assign them a common risk class. Applicants are usually assessed on a case-by-case basis and assigned a risk class based on a wide range of factors.

Factors Considered by Insurance Providers While Rating Smokers


While smoking has an adverse impact on your health irrespective of your age, middle-aged and older people are more likely to develop smoking-induced health problems compared to younger people.

The risk of heart disease, in particular, is three times higher among middle-aged smokers compared to smokers in their 20’s and 30’s.

What this means is that if two smokers – one aged 45 and the other aged 25 – apply for a 20-year life insurance policy, the company is likely to charge the 45-year old more, since he or she is at a higher risk of developing a serious or life-threatening illness during the course of the policy compared to the younger smoker.


When it comes to life insurance, men are generally charged a higher rate than women (all other factors being equal) due to the increased mortality risk. The same rule applies to smokers as well. So, male smokers can expect to pay slightly more for the same policy compared to female smokers.

Mode of Consumption

Your mode of consumption is also a factor that can determine the risk class you are assigned by the insurance company. Smoking cigarettes, as you know, is not the only way to consume tobacco. From cigars to pipes, hookah, snuff, dip, and e-cigarettes, there are a number of other options available as well.

  • Cigarettes are generally more addictive than smokeless tobacco and there are far more health risks associated with smoking compared to other modes of consumption. So, if you smoke cigarettes, you are likely to be charged a higher rate than people who use smokeless tobacco.
  • If you smoke cigars or pipes, you are likely to be charged a lower rate than those who smoke cigarettes. In fact, if you are a social smoker and smoke no more than three or four cigars a month, you might even be able to qualify for non-smoker rates.
  • The same rule applies to smokeless tobacco as well. If you chew or snuff tobacco occasionally, you might be able to qualify for non-smoker rates with some insurance providers. If you consume it on a regular basis, you are likely to be assigned a higher risk class, since prolonged exposure to chewing and dipping tobacco is known to increase the risks of oral cancer significantly.
  • E-cigarettes are considered the least harmful mode of consuming tobacco. So, if you are an e-cigarette user, you can qualify for ‘Preferred Best’ rating, which is the best risk class you can be assigned by an insurance company.

How Do Insurance Companies Test for Tobacco/Nicotine Use?

During the application process, you are usually asked several questions on your smoking habit.

  • How long have you been smoking?
  • How often do you smoke?
  • Do you smoke cigarettes or consume other forms of tobacco?

Apart from answering these questions, you are also supposed to undergo a medical exam, which is usually a requirement for fully underwritten policies. As part of the exam, your blood and urine samples are tested for traces of a substance called cotinine.

When nicotine enters your system, it gets broken down into cotinine by your liver and eliminated from your body. Nicotine stays in your system only for a short period of time – one to three days.

Cotinine, on the other hand, can stay in your system for as long as ten days. So, even if you stop smoking for a few days before the application process, the insurance company can easily find out that you use tobacco products.

What Risk Class Are You Likely to Be Assigned as a Smoker?

  • If you are young, in good health, and only smoke e-cigarettes, you can qualify for ‘Preferred Best’ or ‘Preferred’ risk class with most insurance companies.
  • If you are young, in good health, and only smoke cigars (within a reasonable limit), you can qualify for ‘Preferred’ or ‘Standard Non-Smoker’ risk class.
  • If you are young, in good health, and consume chewable tobacco (within a reasonable limit), you can qualify for ‘Standard Non-Smoker’ risk class.
  • If you are young, in good health, and happen to be a social smoker (only smoke a few times a year), you can qualify for ‘Standard Non-Smoker’ risk class.

If you smoke cigarettes or consume tobacco on a regular basis, you are likely to be assigned one of the following two risk classes.

  • Preferred Smoker – If you are a smoker who is in good health and does not have any preexisting conditions or diseases, you can qualify for this risk class.
  • Standard Smoker – If you are a smoker who is overweight and/or has diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and other types of health problems, you can qualify for this risk class.

Needless to say, Preferred Smoker risk class is cheaper than Standard Smoker risk class.

Average Life Insurance Rates for Smokers and Non-Smokers

Given below is the average cost of a 20-year term life policy with a death benefit of $250,000 for smokers and non-smokers.

It should be noted that insurance companies assess the mortality risk of applicants on a case-by-case basis. So, you might be charged a lower or higher rate than the average rates given below, based on your health condition, family history of diseases, occupation, and a number of other factors.

Age Monthly Premium (For Non-Smokers) Monthly Premium (For Smokers) 30 $27.88 $60.17 40 $36.03 $97.95 50 $76.58 $233.21 60 $207.70 $555.73

Remember – if you are classified as a social smoker, you are likely to pay a slightly higher rate than a non-smoker, but it is still considerably lower than the rate paid by a smoker.

Now, let us take a look at five insurance companies which offer the most reasonably priced policies for smokers.

Top Five Life Insurance Companies for Smokers

aig life insurance

1. AIG

  • Financial Ratings
  • A.M. Best: A
  • Moody’s: A2
  • Standard & Poor’s: A+
  • Fitch: A+

No matter what type of life insurance policy you are looking for, AIG is one of the best options available for you, thanks to its exceptionally wide range of products.

The company’s underwriting policy with respect to smokers is pretty lenient compared to many of its competitors in the industry. So, it is a good choice for social smokers as well as regular smokers.

AIG is notorious for its slow-paced approval process, which can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. However, if you are a smoker, it is a small price to pay compared to how much you stand to save by buying an affordably priced policy.

banner life insurance

2. Banner Life

  • Financial Ratings
  • A.M. Best: A+
  • Standard & Poor’s: AA–
  • Fitch: AA–

Despite being a relatively new entrant into the insurance industry, Banner Life has managed to carve out a niche for itself and become a well-known name in a short period of time. It also offers some of the most affordably priced policies for active smokers as well as those who consume smokeless tobacco.

Banner Life requires you to undergo a medical exam for its fully underwritten policies. You need to test negative for nicotine and cotinine in order to be able to qualify for a lower risk class.

pacific life insurance

3. Pacific Life

  • Financial Ratings
  • A.M. Best: A+
  • Moody’s: A1
  • Standard & Poor’s: AA–
  • Fitch: A+

Pacific Life is one of the most established names in the industry today. The company offers a variety of policies including term life, whole life, universal life, indexed universal life, and variable universal life.

You can expect to receive a favorable rate class from the company, especially if your tobacco consumption is within a reasonable limit.

prudential life insurance

4. Prudential

  • Financial Ratings
  • A.M. Best: A+
  • Moody’s: A1
  • Standard & Poor’s: AA–
  • Fitch: AA–

Prudential is yet another insurance company that many smokers swear by, as the policy costs are comparatively cheaper. What makes the company stand out from its competitors – even among those with lenient underwriting guidelines – is the fact that it issues non-tobacco rates for people who smoke cigars.

As long as you do not test positive for nicotine or cotinine, you can qualify for Standard or even Preferred Non-Smoker risk class, which can help you save you a lot of money in the long term.

transamerica life insurance

5. Transamerica

  • Financial Ratings
  • A.M. Best: A+
  • Moody’s: A1
  • Standard & Poor’s: AA–
  • Fitch: A+

Transamerica offers you a wide range of term life and permanent life policies to choose from and the rates are among the lowest, even for active smokers. The company also allows you to qualify for certain policies without a medical exam.

However, if you are young and in good health despite your smoking habit, it might be a sound idea for you to undergo a medical exam, as it gives you a chance to qualify for a more favorable risk class.

How to Acquire Favorable Rates as a Smoker?

Shop Around

Insurance providers do not treat smokers like a monolithic entity. The policy costs usually differ from one company to another depending on a number of factors.

So, the key to finding the lowest-priced policy is to get personalized quotes from several insurers and choose a policy which you think is better suited for your needs and budget.

Quit Smoking

The best way to boost your insurability is to quit smoking altogether. Most insurance companies allow you to qualify for non-smoker rates if you have abstained from consuming tobacco for at least a year.

At the same time, if you have just quit smoking, you should not wait for a year to apply for a life insurance policy. It is not a astute idea to remain uninsured for a whole year, especially if you have a family.

So, you can apply for an annually renewable policy, which covers you for a period of one year, after which you can apply for a policy with a longer term.

Reassess and Reapply

If you are paying smoker rates for your policy (which you bought when you were a smoker) and if you have quit now, you should contact the insurance company and let them know that you no longer smoke.

In most cases, the company will reassess your mortality risk, assign you a more favorable risk class, and lower your premium. If they are not willing to do so, cancel your policy and apply for a new one with a different company – preferably one of the companies listed above.

Talk to the Experts – Noexam.com

If you are not sure how you can get the best possible rates as a smoker, you can talk to the insurance experts at Noexam.com.

We can get you customized quotes from a plenitude of companies, answer all your questions regarding life insurance, explain the pros and cons of various policies, and help you find a modestly priced policy that meets your needs.

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Jonathan Holloway
November 2, 2018
Jonathan is a licensed life insurance agent at NoExam.com that writes about insurance, personal finance, lifestyle, and sports. See our pages on life insurance, life insurance rates and life insurance companies for more.
Disclaimer: We make every attempt to make sure our information is up to date, but since things change often it is best to double check the data. This review is an opinion. Clicking on links may result in NoExam.com being compensated.