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There are plenty of factors that impact the cost of a life insurance policy, and smoking is one of them. Smokers are more likely to experience health issues and have a shorter lifespan compared to non-smokers. Considering this, life insurance companies consider smokers a bigger risk and will usually charge more for life insurance as a result.

But while some smokers may hesitate to apply for life insurance out of fear of paying high premiums, you may still be able to find a policy that offers you just the right amount of coverage while still fitting well within your budget. 

This article will offer you some guidance on how smoking can impact the cost of life insurance.

Who Is Considered A Smoker? 

Many people might have an occasional cigarette from time to time, especially in social settings. But would this be considered a habit? More specifically, would you be considered a smoker in the eyes of your insurance provider?

The answer to this question is important, as it can impact your premiums. So, who is considered a “smoker?”

The truth is, insurance companies don’t have a spectrum in terms of smoking. Whether you smoke one cigarette a week or light up a few times per day, you’ll still be considered a smoker. 

Not only does cigarette smoking classify you as a smoker, but so do other related products, like pipes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and even nicotine patches and gum. That said, cigar-smoking may provide you with more leeway. As long as you don’t smoke more than one cigar per month, you’ll likely not be considered a smoker. 

Vaping And Cannabis Use

Other non-tobacco products that are smoked may also classify you as a smoker according to many Canadian insurance companies, including e-cigarette products. 

The information we have on the long-term effects of vaping is still in its infancy, so the way that insurance companies approach vaping may change in the future. But for right now, vaping could impact your status as a smoker, which in turn will affect your premiums for a life insurance policy. 

Smoking marijuana is another issue that is often fraught with confusion when it comes to smoker status under a life insurance policy. Since cannabis has been legalized in Canada — both for recreational and medical purposes — insurance companies have been forced to revisit marijuana use among policyholders. Before the legalization of cannabis, those who used marijuana regularly would have been considered smokers. Now, that’s not always the case. 

Having said that, insurance companies will still want to know exactly how much marijuana you use and how often you consume it. Different insurance companies may have their unique policies regarding cannabis use. However, most insurers may classify those who smoke cannabis at least 2 to 4 times per week as smokers. 

Can Smokers Get Life Insurance?

Yes, smokers can still qualify for a life insurance policy. However, the price you pay for your policy will be impacted, as smokers tend to be charged much more for life insurance compared to non-smokers. 

The reason why smokers pay more for life insurance stems from the health impact of smoking. Tobacco use has been linked to health issues like heart disease and cancer. Insurance companies take on more risk when they insure people with a lower life expectancy. 

As such, those with a longer life expectancy will be rewarded with lower premiums and vice versa for those with a shorter life expectancy. And since smoking can directly impact a person’s health and lifespan, it will also have a direct effect on the cost of life insurance. 

Smoker Vs. Non-Smoker Premium Rates

As mentioned, smokers will usually pay more for their life insurance premiums than non-smokers, but by how much? Other factors will come into play, such as a policyholder’s age and coverage amount. All things considered, smokers can generally expect to pay as much as double or more of what non-smokers pay. 

For example, let’s look at the average rate for a 20-year term policy for $500,000 based on age and smoker status:

AgeSmoker (male)Non-Smoker (male)Rate Increase
40 $126.45$47.58165.76%
50 $323.95$123.29162.75%

As you can see, the rates are much higher for smokers than they are for non-smokers within the same age brackets. Further, premiums skyrocket the older you are when you first apply for a life insurance policy. 

Will Your Life Insurance Rate Be Affected If You Used To Smoke? 

We know that smoking will increase your insurance premiums, but what if you were previously considered a smoker but no longer smoke? 

Generally speaking, you must not have smoked for at least the past 12 months to no longer be considered a smoker. If you’ve consumed a tobacco or nicotine item within those 12 months, you may still be deemed a smoker as per the insurance company. 

You will be required to sign a declaration stating that you are no longer a smoker. You may be required to undergo a medical test — such as a urine sample — to verify your non-smoker status. There must be no trace of nicotine or byproducts in your system. Further, the insurance provider will likely want to confirm that your health has not been adversely affected by your previous tobacco use. 

Canadian Life Insurance Providers

 Type of Life Insurance Availability Number of Partners
emma- Term life insurance
- Permanent life insurance
PolicyMe- Term life insurance
- Critical illness insurance
All of Canada-
Policy Advisor- Whole life insurance
- Term life insurance
- No medical life insurance
- Children’s life insurance
- Mortgage protection insurance
- Critical illness insurance
- Children’s critical illness insurance
- Disability insurance
BC, AB, MB, ON30 logo- Term life insurance
- Permanent life insurance
- Critical illness life insurance
BC, AB, SK, MB, ON, NB, NS50+
Insurance Hotline- Term life insurance
- Permanent life insurance
All of Canada30+

What If You Quit Smoking During Your Policy? 

If you choose to quit smoking during your policy, not only will you need to cease cigarette use for at least 12 months, but you’ll also need to confirm why you’ve chosen to quit. Your insurance company will want to know the reason for your decision to stop smoking, as this information could impact whether or not they reclassify you to non-smoker status. 

For example, if you quit on your own accord to get healthier — and to reduce your life insurance policy premiums — then your insurer may consider you a non-smoker if you’ve managed to steer clear of smoking for at least a year. 

But if you’ve stopped smoking because you were forced to after a serious medical episode, like a heart attack or stroke, then your insurance provider may be hesitant to move you to non-smoker status. Every situation is unique, and your insurance provider will want to carefully assess your particular situation before making any changes that could expose them to added risk. 

What If You Start Smoking After Your Policy?

After you’ve taken out a life insurance policy, your rates will not go up if you start smoking after the policy has taken effect. Your premiums are set when you buy the policy and usually can’t be increased, reduced, changed, or cancelled (as long as you keep up with premium payments). The insurance company cannot void your policy or argue against a claim made if you were issued the policy as a non-smoker but started smoking at some point along the line. 

Medical Tests And Smoking

If you declare yourself a smoker when you apply for a life insurance policy, you may be asked to undergo a medical exam that may involve a urine test or blood sample. Insurance companies may want to know how heavily you smoke as well as how the habit has affected your health. 

Even if you declare yourself a non-smoker, you may still be asked to take part in a medical exam, depending on the type of policy you’re applying for. It’s very important to be fully honest about whether or not you smoke when you apply for a life insurance policy. If the insurer finds out that you provided fraudulent information on your application, your policy could be voided or a claim could be denied. 

How Can You Get A Good Rate As A Smoker? 

Although smoking will typically come with higher premiums for a life insurance policy, there may be options available to help you snag a better rate. 

Preferred Rates

The majority of insurance providers offer preferred rates to smokers who can show that they are otherwise in good health. Preferred rates for smokers vary from one insurance provider to the next. Some insurance companies may have more lax requirements for blood pressure or cholesterol, for instance. Other companies may even have lower rates for those who smoke infrequently. 

Do Your Homework

You can also keep premium costs lower by doing your research and comparing rates among insurance companies. You can easily do this by using an insurance aggregator that will pull up a list of available insurance providers in Canada and provide quotes based on the personal information you provide. This can help you find the lowest prices in Canada. 

Reduce Your Coverage

Further, you may also consider reducing your coverage amount to cut back on premium costs. A higher coverage amount will usually translate into a more expensive policy. So, keeping the coverage amount lower can reduce your overall costs. 

Final Thoughts

If you are a smoker, you’ll most likely be charged more for a life insurance policy. That said, you likely won’t be denied coverage. Considering how important a life insurance policy can be to protect your loved ones, whether or not you smoke shouldn’t deter you from applying for a policy. Just do your homework to find the lowest price available to you.

Caitlin Wood, BA avatar on Loans Canada
Caitlin Wood, BA

Caitlin Wood is the Editor-in-Chief at Loans Canada and specializes in personal finance. She is a graduate of Dawson College and Concordia University and has been working in the personal finance industry for over eight years. Caitlin has covered various subjects such as debt, credit, and loans. Her work has been published on Zoocasa, GoDaddy, and deBanked. She believes that education and knowledge are the two most important factors in the creation of healthy financial habits. She also believes that openly discussing money and credit, and the responsibilities that come with them can lead to better decisions and a greater sense of financial security.

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