The Best Life Insurance for Smokers

The idea of buying life insurance can be intimidating for anyone (except for an insurance broker, hopefully!). But this is emphasized further for people who regularly use nicotine products – since rates are higher, finding the best life insurance for smokers can be a daunting task.

It’s true that being a current or recent smoker raises your monthly premiums – the amount you pay each month for life insurance coverage. But the good news is that most people in Canada who smoke can still get approved for a policy

This means it’s all about finding the best price. 

And this may take a little bit of research. Not every insurer treats applicants who smoke in the same way. 

That’s why we did the hard work for you. Keep reading below to learn how to find the best life insurance in Canada for smokers (and to discover our top pick!).

How are Rates on Life Insurance for Smokers Impacted?

Because being a smoker increases your risk of developing a serious health condition, it also makes you riskier to insure. After all, if you’re more likely to die, your insurance company is more likely to have to pay out your death benefit. And that’s expensive for them. 

That’s why your premiums may end up way higher than a friend. 

After all, how do insurance companies compensate for this greater risk (and higher potential cost down the road)? By charging you higher premiums that they would charge a non-smoker. 

The difference in your rates is typically less the younger you are – even as a smoker, you tend to be healthier at a younger age, and chances are you haven’t smoked as long at that point. But the gap increases substantially the older you get. Across the board, rates for smokers can be two to three times higher than rates for non-smokers. 

Here’s how life insurance rates typically compare for smokers vs. non-smokers, assuming both are applying for a 20-year term plan valued at $250,000:

Smokers Monthly Premium Non-Smokers Monthly Premium
Male, Age 20 $29.25/month $17.33/month
Female, Age 20 $18.90/month $13.73/month
Male, Age 30 $33.30/month $18.23/month
Female, Age 30 $24.58/month $14.85/month
Male, Age 40 $72.45/month $28.13/month
Female, Age 40 $51.53/month $21.60/month
Male, Age 50 $186.30/month $72.00/month
Female, Age 50 $127.58/month $51.30/month

Yikes  – you can see the rates get high pretty quick for a smoker.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to get classified as a smoker in the eyes of an insurance company. Most insurers will consider you a smoker even If you’ve smoked just one cigarette in the last 12 months

And it’s not just cigarette smoking that will make you a smoker for insurance purposes. Using tobacco in any form, including chewing tobacco, vaping, and smoking cigars, is considered “smoking” by insurers.

What to Do When Applying for Life Insurance as a Smoker

Since smoking even occasionally can make your insurance premiums skyrocket, you might be tempted to lie about your smoking when you apply for insurance. Maybe it was once a few months ago. What's the harm right?

But remember this – when you apply for insurance as a smoker, the most important thing is to be honest. There’s a good chance that your insurer will find out the truth. And if they do, you could face some hefty consequences. 

For most policies, your insurer will assess your health and review your medical history before approving you for coverage. They have a good chance of discovering that you smoke if you have to provide a urine sample, take a blood test, or share medical records.

Even if your insurer doesn’t find out that you smoke during the underwriting process, you won’t necessarily be in the clear. Insurance policies have a contestability period that usually lasts two years after coverage begins. During this time, your insurer has the right to deny a claim and refund the premiums you’ve paid if they find out that you lied about anything on your application. 

So if you make it past the contestability period, then you’re good to go, right? Not quite.

If your insurer finds out that you lied on your application after the contestability period, they can still adjust your policy based on what they would have approved you for if you had honestly disclosed your smoking history on your application. This might mean decreasing your coverage amount or increasing your premiums. 

So in sum, if you smoke, be honest about it when you apply. Yes, you’ll have to pay more for coverage, but you won't have to worry that your family’s financial safety net might disappear or shrink because you lied on your life insurance application. 

How to Find the Best Life Insurance for Smokers

If you smoke, you won’t be able to get the same rate as a non-smoker with the same health and lifestyle characteristics. But you can get a better deal on your coverage by choosing an insurer that’s more lenient toward smokers. 

Here’s what to look for: 

  • Better rates for smokers: Some insurers offer more competitive rates for smokers than others. Alternatively, they might offer better rates if your tobacco use is occasional or doesn’t involve smoking cigarettes specifically. If you smoke, it’s especially important to get numerous quotes from insurers to see who can offer you the best rate.
  • The chance to lower your premium if you quit: Some insurers will consider lowering your monthly premiums if you quit smoking for at least 12 months straight. For this reason, quitting isn’t just good for your health. It can also be great for your bank account!

PolicyMe’s Top Pick for Life Insurance for Smokers

Overall, who sells the best life insurance for smokers in Canada? Our analyses show that Industrial Alliance offers the best coverage for smokers

Founded in 1892, Industrial Alliance is one of the largest insurance and wealth management companies in Canada. Its rates for smokers are generally the most competitive in the country, which makes it an easy pick for smokers. 

In addition to having better rates for smokers, Industrial Alliance offers lots of flexibility. In particular, with their Pick-A-Term life insurance, you can choose a policy length ranging from anything between 10 to 40 years. 

Laura McKay

COO & Co-Founder

About the Author

Laura brings 7 years of experience working in insurance & strategic operations as a management consultant at Oliver Wyman, after experiences at Manulife and Munich Re. In 2017, she launched a successful initiative for the World Economic Forum focused on innovation in insurance, working closely with insurers, tech pioneers, and policy-makers.

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