Term life insurance and smokers: what you need to know

People apply for life insurance when they have kids, buy a house, get married, or have people who rely on them financially, and some of these people smoke. If you smoke, you know you put yourself at greater risk than a non-smoker for health conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, cancer, diabetes, and other diseases. This can affect your life insurance application, but smoking doesn’t completely disqualify you on its own from getting life insurance coverage. It’s preferable that you quit, but your timeline might not line up with your need for coverage. It might be a trade-off for you to apply for life insurance now as a smoker to get coverage in place to protect your loved ones rather than wait until you quit.

If you are a smoker and decide you want to apply for life insurance, you’ll want to be as honest as possible on your application so that the insurer can get the most accurate portrait of your health. If you lie on your life insurance application, it can lead to consequences, such as rescinding the policy altogether, adjusting the policy for higher premiums, legal action against fraud, or denying the claim should you pass away. Denying a claim could mean that your beneficiaries wouldn’t get a payout, which might defeat the goal of life insurance altogether.


Questions asked about smoking during a life insurance application 


When filling out a life insurance application at Ladder, we’ll ask you a series of questions about your tobacco use if you disclose that you are a smoker. We ask when you last used tobacco products, as well as what your smoking habits are, including frequency (such as daily or a few times a year). You might be wondering about that one cigar six months ago. You’ll have the opportunity to select that you smoke, but infrequently. In a situation like this most likely will be treated as a non-smoker, but it’s good to be honest so that underwriting can make that decision appropriately. 

The application also asks what tobacco products you’ve used, including but not limited to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, chewing tobacco, hookah, and cigars. Being honest about your smoking habits means that the insurer can assess risk properly and therefore quote you properly, with no surprises later for either party. 


How smoking affects life insurance 

Smoking is considered but not the only piece of the puzzle when applying for life insurance. It’s important that you’re honest and disclose that you are a smoker and to know that: 

You will likely pay higher premiums. Smoking is a risk to your health and it is associated with a higher mortality rate. Smokers will likely pay higher premiums, or monthly amounts, compared to non-smokers. 

Smoking can be tied to other health issues that could also affect your quote. Smoking itself will not get your application declined, but other health conditions that could be a result of smoking could see you declined, such as cancer, high blood pressure, or heart disease. The news isn’t all bad: some smokers who are healthy in other areas of their lives could see better rates than a smoker who is unhealthy in additional areas. 

Younger smokers might get better rates than older smokers. Age is also a factor in a life insurance application; the older you get, the more expensive the premiums, or monthly amounts, can be. While it’s best to be a non-smoker, it can be better to apply as a young smoker rather than wait until you’re older. An older smoker will most likely have a higher rate than a younger smoker. 


When to buy life insurance as a smoker 

There’s no clear-cut answer on when to buy life insurance as a smoker. You’ll want to weigh a potentially higher premium against the cost of not having any life insurance at all. The only way to know what your premiums will be is to apply. Remember, underwriters look at your full picture of health, not just one individual component. 



If you want to apply for life insurance as a smoker, you can. Generally, though, it’s best for your life insurance policy—and your health—if you quit smoking before applying, but that might take some time and that’s OK. Any life insurance coverage is better than none if your goal is to protect your loved ones financially in case you pass away. If your smoking habits change, you can apply for new or additional coverage. 


Curious about how much coverage you need? Head to our life insurance calculator



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