Smoking and Insurance Premiums: What You Must Know

Smoking and Insurance Premiums: What You Must Know

Smoking and Life Insurance
While there are many things that affect life insurance rates, being a smoker is one risk factor that is always viewed in a negative light. Why? Because smoking creates a lot of health risks – which could be avoided by the applicant choosing not to smoke. Let’s take a closer look at this issue.

What are the top five health risks caused by smoking?

There are five top health risks attributed to smoking.

1. Lung cancer: Smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer, accounting for about 85% of all cases. The chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the cells in the lungs, leading to the development of cancerous tumors.

2. Heart disease: Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing heart disease. The toxic substances in cigarette smoke can damage the blood vessels, leading to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and increasing the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes.

3. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD): Smoking is the primary cause of COPD, a progressive lung disease that includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It damages the airways and makes it difficult to breathe, leading to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

4. Respiratory infections: Smokers are more susceptible to respiratory infections such as pneumonia, bronchitis, and influenza. Smoking weakens the immune system and damages the respiratory tract, making it easier for infections to take hold.

5. Reduced fertility and reproductive health issues: Both male and female smokers can experience fertility problems. Smoking impairs sperm production and mobility in men, while in women, it can lead to reduced fertility, miscarriages, premature births, and complications during pregnancy.

What are the health risk risks of smoking cigarettes, versus tobacco, cigars, and vaping?

Smoking cigarettes, tobacco, cigars, and vaping all pose significant health risks. Here is a breakdown of the potential health risks associated with each:

  1. Cigarettes:

    • Increased risk of lung cancer, throat cancer, and other types of cancer.
    • Higher chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
    • Greater likelihood of heart disease, stroke, and blood vessel problems.
    • Respiratory issues such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
    • Reduced lung function and decreased physical fitness.
    • Dental problems, including gum disease and tooth loss.
    • Increased risk of infertility and complications during pregnancy.
  1. Smoking Tobacco (Other than Cigarettes):

    • Many of the same risks as cigarette smoking, including various cancers and respiratory diseases.
    • Higher chances of oral, throat, and esophageal cancers due to direct contact with smoke and tobacco.
    • Increased risk of gum disease, tooth loss, and oral health problems.
    • Potential for addiction and dependence similar to cigarettes.
  1. Smoking Cigars:

    • Cigar smoke contains many of the same harmful chemicals as cigarette smoke.
    • Increased risk of cancers, particularly lung, mouth, and throat cancer.
    • Higher chance of developing COPD and other respiratory issues.
    • Risks associated with second-hand smoke exposure, impacting both the smoker and those around them.
  1. Vaping:

    • While vaping is often marketed as a safer alternative to smoking, it still poses risks.
    • Inhalation of potentially harmful substances, including nicotine, formaldehyde, and heavy metals.
    • Lung damage, respiratory irritation, and difficulty breathing.
    • Increased vulnerability to respiratory infections.
    • Adverse effects on cardiovascular health, including increased heart rate and blood pressure.
    • Nicotine addiction and potential gateway to traditional cigarette smoking, especially among young adults and non-smokers.

What percentage of Canadians smoke and how does this compare to other countries?

According to the Canadian Tobacco and Nicotine Survey (CTNS) in 2020, the prevalence of current cigarette smoking in Canada is around 3.2 million Canadians. Comparatively, a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reveals that the United States has a higher rate of current smokers compared to Canada. Stats vary among sites, but this is what is clear: while anti-smoking messaging across North America has had an impact, a significant portion of the population still engages in this bad habit.

A professional weighs in: Q & A with Mathieu LeBlanc

We reached out to insurance underwriter Mathieu Leblanc to answer questions about how life insurance views smokers, and how to get a better rate if you are a smoker or have decided to quit. Here is what LeBlanc told us:

1. Which companies offer a stop smoking incentive plan?

Foresters offers a Quit Smoking Incentive Plan on the Advantage Plus1 and non-participating whole life products. Smokers automatically receive lower rates for the first two years of their certificate and if they quit within this time period, those lower premiums can continue. As stated on their website, “As a fraternal organization focused on the wellness of our members, Foresters is proud to offer this incentive. It’s a powerful incentive to help people stop smoking, giving someone the chance to live a healthier lifestyle as well as potentially save thousands of dollars.

2. Who has the most favourable large cigar qualification question?

Canada Life for large cigar use (52 per year rather than the usual 12 per year).

3. How many years do you have to stop smoking to qualify for preferred rates?

Usually at least two years to qualify for the first band of preferred (re: class 2). To qualify for the best preferred class (re: class 1), the range varies between 5 and 15 years of no use (depending on the carrier).

4. How many joints are you typically allowed to still be able to qualify for non-smoker rates?

The majority of companies now will allow non-smoker rates for marijuana use (as long as it’s not mixed with tobacco) regardless of the frequency. That’s also the rule that most all reinsurers have adopted as well.  So, if the carrier can make an offer (standard or rated) you’ll get non-smoker rates as long as it’s not being mixed with tobacco and if a urine sample is required for age and amount, the cotinine test will need to be negative.

What are typical life insurance rates for smokers vs non-smokers?

Insurance Type Non-Smoker Smoker
40 year-old 40 year-old
Male Female Male Female

$500,000 Term 10

Monthly Rate


RBC Insurance


Empire Life


Empire Life


Empire Life

$500,000 Term 20

Monthly Rate


RBC Insurance


RBC Insurance


Empire Life and Desjardins


Empire Life

$500,000 Term 30

Monthly Rate


RBC Insurance


RBC Insurance


Beneva, BMO Insurance and Humania


BMO Insurance

$500,000 Term 100

Monthly Rate


BMO Insurance


BMO Insurance


BMO Insurance


BMO Insurance

$500,000 Whole Life Non Participating 20 Pay

Monthly Rate


Foresters Financial


Desjardins and Sunlife



Foresters Quit Smoking Incentive then $955.80 after 2 years.


Foresters Quit Smoking Incentive then $818.55 after 2 years

Note: Rates as of August 2023

Smoker? Work with a Life Insurance Broker

Do you smoke and need life insurance? Work with a broker.

Brokers have access to a wide range of insurance companies and their policies. This allows them to compare multiple options and find coverage that suits their specific needs and budget. Brokers also have access to insurer’s application forms and know which questions will put their applicant at a disadvantage. A broker can recommend options such as simplified or guaranteed issue to ensure a higher chance of an approved application. Life insurance brokers can help smokers find cost-effective solutions too – while smokers generally face higher premiums, brokers can identify insurance providers that offer competitive rates or consider factors beyond smoking that may be beneficial, such as overall health or lifestyle.

While smoking does impact life insurance rates, working with a broker will help you get the policy you need at the most affordable rate.

Contributor bios

Mathieu LeBlanc

Mathieu LeBlancMathieu LeBlanc is a dedicated professional with a strong passion for underwriting and insurance. With a proven track record in the insurance and reinsurance industry, he has earned several prestigious designations in his early years as an underwriter. Rising through the ranks to become an underwriting director, Mathieu embraced entrepreneurship in 2018 and founded his own consulting firm, Mathieu LeBlanc Consulting Inc. This independent venture allows him to offer customized solutions to insurance carriers, guiding them through the complex landscape of underwriting and risk management. Along the way, he has provided valuable mentorship to numerous underwriters and insurance sales professionals.

– Mathieu LeBlanc

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