About 14% of American adults smoked cigarettes in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although smoking rates have been in decline for years, that’s still more than 30 million people who regularly light up.
Many if not most of these people need life insurance for one reason or another. But because smoking is bad for your health, life insurance companies tend to frown on the habit.
Fortunately, you can get life insurance if you smoke. You just won’t qualify for the best rates and might not be able to afford as much coverage as you’d like. And you’ll need to do more research to find life insurance companies willing to work with you.
Best Life Insurance Companies for Smokers
These are the best life insurance companies for smokers and tobacco users. Each makes life insurance coverage available to people who currently use tobacco or have used tobacco in the recent past.
Each of these insurance carriers does at least one thing really well, whether it’s offering a wider-than-usual variety of coverage types or providing favorable terms to people who’ve quit smoking. Our pick for best overall life insurance company for smokers offers the best overall value for our readers.
Best Overall: Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha is our top life insurance company for smokers because it doesn’t automatically consider smoking status for certain types of policies.
Specifically, if you’re applying for a final expenses policy with a death benefit up to $40,000, your status as a smoker won’t impact your rates and you won’t be required to undergo a medical exam. This is a permanent life insurance policy that remains in force until you die or stop making payments.
Smokers can also qualify for term life insurance and higher-benefit permanent life insurance policies with Mutual of Omaha. However, these policies generally require medical exams, and you can expect to pay higher premiums as a smoker or tobacco user.
- Qualify for final expenses coverage up to age 85
- Qualify for term life coverage up to age 80
- Work with an insurance agent to get more final expenses coverage — direct-issued policies top out at $25,000
- Option to convert term life coverage to cash value coverage (whole life insurance)
Best for No Medical Exam: Globe Life Insurance
Globe Life has the best no-medical-exam life insurance coverage for smokers and tobacco users.
You can qualify for up to $100,000 in term life coverage and up to $50,000 in whole life coverage without a medical exam here. There’s also no waiting period to get coverage, which is a good thing if you have known health issues.
Bear in mind that a documented history of smoking or smoking-related health conditions like heart disease and COPD will increase your rates or result in denial of coverage.
- Affordable monthly premiums as low as $4 for adults in excellent health
- Buy direct online or through an insurance agent
- Apply for specialized types of life insurance, including children’s life insurance, accidental death insurance, and mortgage protection insurance
Best for Smokers in Otherwise Good Health: John Hancock
John Hancock wants you to be as healthy as you can be, even if you smoke. Its free Vitality GO rewards program offers:
- Discounts on fitness wearables
- Discounts on healthy food at the supermarket
- Personalized healthy living advice and content
- Discounts at REI, the outdoor equipment and apparel retailer
Upgrade to Vitality PLUS ($2 per month) to get:
- 25% off your premium when you make qualifying healthy choices
- Even deeper discounts on fitness wearables and healthy foods
- A complimentary membership to Headspace, a meditation app
You can qualify for these benefits as a smoker, although your baseline premium is likely to be higher.
- Quit Smoking Initiative, which provides smokers with nonsmoker premiums for the first three years of the policy
- Potential for extremely high term life limits (up to $65 million)
- Terms between 10 and 30 years
Best for Marijuana Users: Fidelity Life Insurance
Fidelity Life is unusually friendly to cannabis users who don’t smoke excessively or have records of cannabis-related behaviors that suggest higher risk of death, such as driving under the influence.
If you’re relatively young and otherwise healthy, you can qualify for up to $1 million in term life insurance at favorable rates with Fidelity Life without taking a medical exam. Even if you’re older, you can qualify for up to $35,000 in guaranteed issue final expenses insurance — meaning you can’t be turned down for tobacco or marijuana use or any other health-related reason.
- Favorable rates on permanent life insurance coverage for seniors up to age 85
- Up to $150,000 in permanent life insurance coverage for seniors
- Wide range of rider options, including an inflation rider that ensures your benefits keep pace with inflation
Best for Tobacco Users Who Don’t Smoke Cigarettes: AIG
AIG is a great life insurance choice for tobacco and nicotine users who don’t smoke cigarettes or vape. That includes cigar smokers, chewing tobacco users, and nicotine gum users. If you only smoke cigars or use chewing tobacco occasionally, you’re likely to qualify for a preferred nonsmoker rate here — as good a deal as you’d get if you didn’t use tobacco or nicotine at all.
- Initial term coverage available up to age 80
- Renew into a new term as late as age 95
- Universal life insurance and guaranteed issue whole life insurance (final expenses coverage) also available
Best for Term Life Insurance: Haven Life Insurance
Haven Life offers competitively priced term life insurance policies as large as $3 million. Because Haven is a fully digital insurance company that uses algorithmic underwriting, applying is a snap — it takes just a few minutes and can result in a near-instant approval decision if your application doesn’t require a medical exam.
Haven offers no-exam policies for smokers, although coverage amounts may be lower and premiums higher. Opt into the Haven Plus add-on to get a complimentary last will and one year of free will changes through Trust & Will, a complimentary subscription to workout app Aaptiv, and free secure online document storage through LifeSite.
- Apply for term life coverage up to age 64
- No-exam policies up to $500,000 in coverage
- No-exam terms up to 20 years
Best for Whole Life Insurance: New York Life
New York Life is the best choice for smokers seeking lifelong whole life insurance coverage. Premiums remain level for the duration of the policy and contribute to a cash value component that you can borrow against once it’s big enough.
Although smoking isn’t an automatic disqualifier, you will need to take a medical exam as a condition of coverage, and you must apply through a life insurance agent who works with New York Life.
- Guaranteed death benefit on standard whole life policies
- Option to pay more for a custom whole life policy that only charges premiums for a set period of time
- Spouse’s Paid-up option allows your spouse to use your death benefit to purchase a policy of their own with no medical exam
- Excellent financial strength ratings
Methodology: How We Select the Best Life Insurance for Smokers
We use several criteria to evaluate life insurance companies that offer policies to tobacco users. Each relates in some way to these policies’ eligibility requirements, cost, availability, variety, or overall experience for policyholders.
Criteria for Nonsmoker Status
First, we ask what insurers consider to be “nonsmoker” status. Many insurance companies consider anyone who has been tobacco-free for 12 months or longer to be a nonsmoker, but some are more strict.
Many insurers also distinguish between “never-smokers” and people who smoked at one point in their lives. They reserve the most affordable life insurance rates for never-smokers.
Medical Exam Requirements
A growing number of life insurance companies offer simplified issue or guaranteed issue life insurance policies. Neither type requires a medical exam as a condition of approval, although simplified issue applicants can still be denied if their medical histories contain red flags.
No-medical-exam policies are particularly attractive for smokers, who are more likely to have health issues that show up in an exam.
Other Underwriting Requirements
Every life insurance company takes a different approach to underwriting. Some are known as being smoker-friendly — or friendly to people with health issues in general.
Life insurance comes in two main flavors: term life insurance and permanent life insurance, a domain that includes whole life insurance and universal life insurance. Many of the companies on this list offer term life insurance only, but permanent life insurance is useful for people seeking lifelong coverage as well as those seeking coverage for end-of-life expenses.
All else being equal, we rated companies with more available policy types higher than companies that offer fewer options.
The life insurance business is competitive, but that doesn’t mean every insurer charges the same rates. All else being equal, smokers should seek out companies known for charging lower premiums.
Term life insurance policies generally have initial terms ranging from 10 to 30 years. Some algorithmic underwriters — digital life insurance companies — top out at 20 years, however. We rated companies that offer more choices for policy terms more highly.
Smokers tend not to qualify for as much term life insurance as nonsmokers because they’re riskier to insure, although there’s no hard upper limit. However, final expenses policies, which don’t consider smoking status at all, generally top out at $50,000 or less.
Although the amount of life insurance you need is deeply personal and not everyone needs the maximum amount of coverage available to them, we rated more highly companies that offer higher coverage limits to smokers.
Life Insurance for Smokers — FAQs
You have questions about life insurance for smokers. We have answers.
Will You Pay More For Life Insurance If You Smoke?
You’re very likely to pay more for life insurance if you currently smoke or recently smoked. Life insurance companies put current and recent tobacco users in a special category of risk — one that acknowledges their higher likelihood of premature death in comparison to otherwise similar policyholders.
That said, life insurance rates for smokers vary widely by insurer. So it really does pay to shop around.
Do Life Insurance Companies Treat Smoking and Other Types of Tobacco Use Differently?
Most insurance companies make no distinction between people who smoke cigarettes and people who use nicotine vape pens. If you habitually inhale nicotine, your insurance company is likely to consider you a smoker and assign your application a higher level of risk.
Insurance company policies around chewing tobacco aren’t as consistent. Some insurance companies treat people who use chewing tobacco just as they treat smokers, while others are more lenient. Some may even disregard the habit entirely. You won’t know until you apply.
As for cigar smokers, insurance companies tend to look the other way at occasional cigar use. If you smoke the occasional cigar — one every month or two — you may qualify for nonsmoker rates. However, if you smoke cigars every day, you’re going to be considered a smoker.
Finally, different life insurance companies treat marijuana use differently. If cannabis is legal where you live, your application won’t automatically be denied because you’re a marijuana user. However, you may pay higher premiums or earn smoker status if you use it regularly. Most life insurance medical exams include a drug screen that detects recent cannabis use.
How Long Do You Have to Be Tobacco-Free to Qualify for Nonsmoker Rates?
Most insurance companies consider anyone who has not smoked for 12 months to be a nonsmoker. If you have documented tobacco use in your medical record, you’ll want to quit smoking and remain nicotine-free for at least one year before applying for life insurance.
Some insurance companies may further distinguish between nonsmokers who quit and “never-smokers” who never started. The resultant premium difference is less dramatic than that between nonsmokers and smokers, however.
A never-smoker in excellent health might qualify for the Preferred Plus/Elite risk class, the lowest level of risk in the actuarial tables. A nonsmoker of the same age who did smoke at one point and is now in excellent health might find themselves in the Preferred class, the second lowest level. Their premiums might be 25% higher than the never-smoker’s.
Can You Get a No-Medical-Exam Life Insurance Policy If You Smoke?
Yes, but your options will be limited and you likely won’t qualify for much coverage. You’ll still be required to answer questions about your medical history and could be denied if those raise any red flags for the insurer.
If you’re really set on finding the best policy that doesn’t require a medical exam, consider working with a qualified insurance agent or life insurance broker.
How to Choose the Best Life Insurance Company for Smokers
The mere fact of your tobacco use won’t disqualify your life insurance application. However, it should be clear by now that you won’t have access to the most favorable policy options. Those are reserved for young “never-smokers” in excellent health.
To find the next best thing, look for policies that fit your needs and budget.
If you’re fairly young and expect to need coverage for a long time, that could mean a 30-year term life policy or whole life policy with a modestly sized death benefit. If you’re older and only need coverage until your mortgage is paid off or you simply want to ensure that your death isn’t a financial burden for your loved ones, a 10-year term policy or small final expenses policy might be more appropriate.
And if you have the luxury of waiting to apply for life insurance, consider swearing off tobacco for good before you make the jump. After you’ve been tobacco-free for long enough, you could qualify for lower life insurance rates — yet another financial benefit of quitting smoking