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Everything You Need to Know About Term Life Insurance If You Are a Smoker

Are you a smoker? This will impact your life insurance premiums, however there are a number of ways to minimize this. Smoking definition It’s important to distinguish between whether you are a smoker and whether the insurance company will offer you smoker rates. Some smokers are eligible for nonsmoker rates and some people who consider

Are you a smoker? This will impact your life insurance premiums, however there are a number of ways to minimize this.

What is life insurance for smokers?

Most people aren’t thinking about life insurance when they take up smoking, but the addictive habit can have a major impact on how much they pay for life insurance down the line. Fortunately, most life insurance companies do still offer coverage to smokers, but as a smoker there are some important things to know before finalizing your policy.

Why does life insurance cost more for smokers?

For starters, it is important to understand why life insurance rates are higher for those who smoke. The practice may seem discriminatory, but from the perspective of the life insurance company, it does make sense. The health risks associated with smoking are today abundantly clear: smoking tobacco is directly tied to cancer, heart disease, lung diseases, diabetes, and COPD, among others. The increased risk of potentially life-threatening health problems makes smokers riskier to insure. Companies therefore increase premiums for smokers to protect themselves. It is a grim reality, but smoking increases your risk of death, which in turn increases the chances a life insurance company will have to issue a death benefit.

Do I qualify as a smoker?

The second crucial thing to know about life insurance for smokers is what actually qualifies as smoking. It doesn’t take two packs a day to drive up your life insurance premiums: even people who smoke cigarettes occasionally can be deemed smokers for life insurance purposes. In fact, if you’ve had a single cigarette in the last 12 months, most life insurance companies will consider you a smoker. And it’s not only cigarettes: any tobacco consumption, from cigars and cigarillos to chewing tobacco, can qualify you as a smoker. Nicotine products, like gum and patches, can also influence what life insurance premiums you are offered.

When it comes to cannabis, life insurance providers in Canada have taken varying approaches. Typically though, most companies will not qualify infrequent cannabis users as smokers. Where policies tend to vary is in classifying different cannabis products. For example, some companies consider smoking, vaping and edibles as having the same degree of risk. Others consider smoking and vaping a higher risk than edibles. If you consume cannabis, be sure to find a life insurance provider that has the best option for your situation.

How do life insurance companies know I smoke?

The main way that life insurance companies determine whether an applicant is a smoker or not—besides asking upfront—is through the underwriting medical exam. Urine and blood samples taken during the life insurance medical exam can reveal traces of nicotine and cotinine, both found in tobacco products.

Even if you are not required to take a medical exam for underwriting, it is never a good idea to lie about whether you are a smoker. Because life insurance policies include contestability periods—essentially a window during which insurance companies can investigate claims—your benefit could be denied if the insurance provider discovered you lied about your smoking status. Similarly, if you take up smoking mid-way during your life insurance term, it is a good idea to disclose it.

What else influences life insurance premiums for smokers?

Smoking is just one factor that influences life insurance premiums. Other things like health, lifestyle, and age also have a direct impact on how much you pay for life insurance. If you are young and healthy and a smoker, your premiums will be higher than that of a non-smoking peer but not as high (relatively, speaking) to an older person who smokes.

For example, a 30-year-old man who smokes is likely to pay almost double in premiums than a non-smoker 30-year-old man. If we look at a 55-year-old male smoker, however, their rates can be nearly triple those of a non-smoker of the same age. It goes without saying that premium rates also vary based on the policy term and size, as well as on the life insurance company.

What companies offer life insurance for smokers?

The good news is that all companies do offer life insurance policies to smokers. The bad news is that no matter where you look, life insurance rates will be higher than non-smoker premiums. Despite this, it is worth shopping around to find the best policy and rate for your situation. For instance, some insurance providers will take into account how often you smoke, potentially leading to lower premiums. Others will adjust premium rates if you successfully quit smoking for at least a year. And some are more lenient about the classification of smoker, overlooking things like smoking the occasional cigar.

Among the Canadian companies that provide term life insurance policies for smokers are Industrial Alliance, Sunlife, RBC Insurance, BMO Insurance, Assumption Life, and many more. For those seeking non-medical life insurance, Canada Protection Plan is a trusted option (though their policies do have higher premiums than those with medical underwriting). Don’t hesitate to get in touch with one of our experts to find the right life insurance policy for you and to access term life insurance quotes for smokers.

Smoking definition

It’s important to distinguish between whether you are a smoker and whether the insurance company will offer you smoker rates. Some smokers are eligible for nonsmoker rates and some people who consider themselves non-smokers will be offered smoker rates (even though they are not smokers).

I’m not a smoker but the insurance company will offer me smoker rates

The general guideline for distinguishing between smoker and non-smokers is whether you’ve had any form of tobacco or marijuana in the last year. If you have – even once – then most insurance companies will treat you as a smoker.

An example of this would be if you only smoke socially – perhaps once a month at a party. The insurance companies will offer you smoker premiums. If you had a weekend away last summer and shared a marijuana joint with your friends for the first time every, again the insurance companies will treat offer you smoking premiums.

I’m a smoker but the insurance company will offer me non-smoker rates

Depending on what you’ve smoked and how much, you may be able to qualify for non-smoker rates from many companies. If you are a very occasional pipe smoker or cigar smoker, many Canadian companies will offer you non-smoker premiums. Generally if you smoke either of those less than once a month the insurance companies will offer you non-smoker rates.

If you are in this category you should also not smoke prior to applying for life insurance or until after your new policy is in force. The insurance companies will expect to see a clear urine test to offer you non-smoker premiums in this instance.

I have no intention of quitting

If you have no current or future plans of quitting smoking, we simply want to find the least expensive smoking rates. We do this by shopping more companies. If you are looking for permanent insurance we may be able to offer you non-smoker rates for the first two years of your policy, after which time the policy will revert to smoker premiums.

quit smoking life insurance

I plan on quitting shortly, I am in the process of quitting, or I only smoked rarely

If you currently qualify for smoker premiums but are going to quit smoking for one full year within the next couple of years, then we don’t want to lock smoker premiums for the long term right now. Instead, shop for a short term policy (typically a 10 year term) which will lower your premiums temporarily. Once you have had the policy for a year and been smoke free for a year you can request reconsideration for nonsmoker rates. Once that has been approved you can then convert your policy to the correct type of insurance (i.e. permanent, or a longer term). Not all companies offer the automatic ability to convert to longer term or permanent insurance so we shop this out on an individual basis.


Never, ever conceal your smoking status from an insurance company. You can imagine that they are sensitive about this subject because many people are seeking the lowest rates possible. If concealed or the insurance company is misled, they may deny the death claim if you die. Instead, fully disclose everything during the application process, and use the above information to ensure the lowest possible premiums.

How to proceed?

For a personal recommendation please call toll free at 1-877-344-4011. James is a life insurance expert (see our media page), an experience life insurance broker and dedicated to getting his clients the lowest premiums. 


What is term life insurance for smokers?

Term life insurance is a policy with fixed premium rates over a certain term—say, 10 or 20 years. For smokers, a term life insurance policy is a good option, especially if you plan to quit down the line, because you could apply for a new term policy as a non-smoker when the initial term runs out.

Can I get life insurance if I smoke?

Short answer: yes. Smoking won’t exclude you from obtaining a life insurance policy, however it will significantly drive up your premium rates and could lead to certain coverage exclusions or conditions.

How much more expensive is life insurance for smokers?

Due to the health risks associated with smoking, life insurance rates are significantly higher for smokers than non-smokers. Typically, rates can actually double if you are deemed a smoker by your life insurance provider, though they can also be higher depending on other health factors.

How do life insurance companies test for nicotine?

Life insurance companies test for traces of nicotine as well as cotinine to determine whether you are a smoker during the medical exam. Typically, a urine or blood sample will be tested for traces of both substances.

Is life insurance for smokers worth the cost?

Despite its higher cost, life insurance for smokers still offers the same financial support to dependents when the policy holder passes away. In other words, a life insurance benefit can still function as income replacement for your loved ones or to protect them from your debts.

How long after quitting smoking can you get life insurance?

While you can get life insurance while being a smoker, you can begin to qualify for non-smoker rates after 12 months of quitting. This means 12 months without the use of cigarettes and cigars, as well as chewing tobacco, nicotine patches, and gum. 

Let us help you get the best premiums for smokers. Please contact us if you have any additional questions or request a quote.


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