Laura Berry is a former State Farm insurance producer and insurance expert.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Car Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jan 23, 2017

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Don't miss these facts...

  • Smoking cigarettes causes over 480,000 deaths per year in the USA
  • Smoking has been found to directly cause lung cancer and COPD
  • Cigarete smokers can get life insurance coverage, but they pay much more for their premiums
  • If smokers quit cigarettes they can get normal premium rates

The Devastating Effects of Smoking


Since the mass production of cigarettes came about in the 1930’s, the lung cancer rate exploded.

The dread disease has been linked directly to the steady 480,000 deaths per year in the United States. During World War II smoking of cigarettes became extremely popular, and our nation’s health has been the worse for it ever since.

Cigarette smoke contains over 4000 different chemicals, over 40 known carcinogens, formaldehyde, and many other harmful substances including arsenic and cyanide.

It is a proven fact that cigarette smoking over a period causes lung cancer which results in an early demise. Life insurance companies will insure smokers for coverage, although they must pay an additional premium to obtain coverage.

It is difficult for a nonsmoker to understand why anyone would smoke given the dire results brought on by the habit.

It is impossible for a nonsmoker to realize the incredible addiction that nicotine has on the human body, which is said to be worse than heroin.

Learn more about smoking and the influence on insurance rates below and make sure to use our free insurance comparison tool above!


Smoking cigarettes is also the main cause of COPD or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.

Essentially, COPD is the slow destruction of the little air sacs in the lungs that transfer the oxygen we breath directly into the bloodstream.

The cigarette smoke is the culprit with all of its nicotine, tar, and chemicals. Without that function, we cannot live, so eventually, smoking causes this lethal condition.

A Scientific Fact

The statistics are very clear that cigarette smoke is devastating to our bodies and by smoking, we slowly destroy our health. It is ironic that during the 1930’s to 1950’s, smoking was looked upon as a non-harmful, yet interesting pastime.

Tobacco companies even ran ads in major magazines endorsed by doctors about how good cigarette smoke was for our lungs.

Then in the mid to late 50’s the onslaught of lung cancer and other respiratory diseases come onto our society like a tsunami.

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Tobacco Use and Life Insurance


Smokers can get life insurance but they must pay extra for the privilege.

While people who smoke do realize that it will cost more for their smoking habit, many are somewhat shocked that they will have to pay as much as two to three times the normal rate as non-smokers.

If they are over age 40, then they might even have to pay more.

It is noted that people who smoke are frequently beset with other health problems, inactive lifestyles, and a poor diet.

Tobacco use of cigars, chewing tobacco, and electronic cigarettes are usually less expensive regarding premium ratings, but life companies still usually charge extra.

Electronic cigarettes were originally touted as being therapeutic and as a way to get off of cigarettes, which is true to an extent.

However the ingredients for electronic cigarettes are optional to the user, and substances such as nicotine and other harmful substances are sold to the user for inclusion in the devices.

The Problem For Life Insurance Underwriting

Underwriting is the process of methodically determining the risk of people who are applying for life insurance.

Initially, an applicant gives a voluntary statement whether or not he or she is or is not a tobacco user and if so, whether it is as a cigarette user or a user of other tobacco.

If a physical exam is required by the insurance company, nicotine will show up in the blood sample given.

An applicant should not attempt to hide the fact that they smoke because nicotine will show up in the blood.

Nicotine will stay in a person’s system for up to one year, so if a smoker fudged in divulging the fact that he or she is a smoker and were to die, is is conceivable that an autopsy would reveal that the deceased was a smoker.

Most life insurance companies will offer an insured individual a standard, non-smoking premium rate if the individual stops smoking for at least one year.

This seems to be a very liberal offer since depending upon how long a person had used tobacco; there could already be damage that had been done.

Smoking Is Very Pervasive In Our Society Today


Over the past 50 years, we have gotten a better perspective on just how badly smoking tobacco has affected our overall health situation.

In 1964 a report to the Surgeon General of the United States illustrated the devastating effects that smoking had on the overall health of the American public.

From 1965 until 2011, the incidence of smoking dropped from 51.9 percent to 21.6 percent for men and from 33.9 percent to 16.5 percent with women.

Some of the impediments to smokers includes federal taxes on cigarettes being raised, restrictions at the workplace and other public venues as far as smoking, as well as a general distaste for smoking in general in society.

Even with these numbers in the reduction of individuals who smoke, there is still a vibrant and very vigorous tobacco industry that subtly promotes its products.

People at very young ages still light up, and once they are involved with cigarettes, it is very difficult for them to quit. When we are young, we feel invulnerable, and as far as cigarettes are concerned, especially so.

There are laws prohibiting the sale of tobacco to minors, but is is still possible for our young people to get cigarettes if they want to.

Electronic Cigarettes

Life insurance companies currently view the use of vaping devices, or electronic cigarettes as nicotine-delivering devices, as that is how they test.

If a person tests positive for nicotine, they are considered to be a smoker.

E-cigarettes have cartridges which can contain nicotine at varying levels, so it is possible for a user of vapes to test positive in this way.

Many e-cigarette users got off of tobacco laden cigarettes by switching to the vapes, but many still use the nicotine cartridges simply because they feel they are better off without having to deal with the cigarette smoke.

While there is merit to avoiding the smoke of tobacco, nicotine itself is also a deadly ingredient.

It causes heart and blood vessel problems that eventually shortens life. While this may be a better route than tobacco, as far as most of the life insurance companies it is still smoking.

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In Conclusion


Life insurance underwriting has the purpose of evaluating risks that place applicants in various categories regarding mortality.

Anything that causes an increase statistically in an applicant’s mortality will cause an increased premium to be assessed, or the applicant can be turned down for coverage if the individual’s habits or health are excessively bad.

Conclusions are based solely on statistics that are known from exhaustive studies and compilation of data over time.

These statistics are proven and can be relied upon.

Smoking especially since it is an individual’s choice, will not necessarily cause a person to be rejected, but it will cost double or even triple a normal rating of the insured’s premiums depending on age and other health considerations.

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