Everyone now knows that smoking is bad for our health and that it shortens our life expectancy.  As a result, life insurance companies take smoking into account when underwriting a life insurance application. In fact, there are actually “smoking” and “non-smoking” health classification rates.

As brokers, we often get smoking-related questions when talking to Canadians about life insurance so we decided to blog about this in order to shed some more light on the subject of smoking and life insurance.

Occasional Smokers

Some people smoke occasionally and have one or two cigarettes at some sort of get together. Often we get asked if this makes any difference to life insurance companies as far as premiums go.

Unfortunately, there are no “occasional smoker” rates offered. If you have smoked even one cigarette within the last year then life insurance companies will classify you as a smoker (e.g. “smoker” health classification during underwriting).

What about Cigars?

It is possible to get a non-smoking rate if you smoke a cigar (or pipe) VERY occasionally. The amount of leeway given depends on the insurance company in question.

Most Canadian life insurance companies allow the applicant to smoke one cigar a month and still qualify for non-smoking rates. If you are an occasional cigar smoker and are looking for life insurance please make sure you either talk to an experienced broker for advice or shop around yourself!

Note: most companies will look for the presence of “cotinine” during the underwriting process (e.g. medical exam and questions). Cotinine is an alkaloid found in tobacco. Do not lie about your smoking habits in your application!

How Much More are Smokers Rates?

This depends on the life insurance company in question. Generally speaking, smoking insurance premiums are about 50% to 120% more when compared to non-smoking rates.

The difference between smoking and non-smoking rates is greater for term life insurance plans when compared to permanent life insurance plans (e.g. whole life).

Can Medical Examinations Detect If I Have Been Smoking?

Medically underwritten plans (as opposed to guaranteed issue plans) involve both medical questions and a medical examination by a certified health professional (which includes blood and/or urine samples, depending on the life insurance company).

In addition, the life insurance company examines your medical history, so if you have discussed smoking with your doctor then there is a good chance they will find out about this information.

The laboratory tests that are done on blood and/or urine samples look for the presence of cotinine which is in all tobacco and has a half-life of cotinine is roughly 20 hours.

Opinions vary widely when it comes to how long cigarette use remains detectable by today’s current lab tests. Some claim that it is out of the system after 3 days, while others maintain that it can remain detectable for up to 20 days.

When Am I Considered a Non-Smoker if I Quit?

You must quit smoking cigarettes (and marijuana for that matter) for one full year before being considered a non-smoker by Canadian life insurance companies.

After the one year is up you must contact the life insurance company and request a change for non-smoking premiums. Not surprisingly, there will be medical tests done to confirm that you are smoke free (usually urine and blood sample analysis).


We hope that we have answered any questions about life insurance and smoking that you might have had.

If you still have questions about life insurance please feel free to contact us. We are fully licensed Canadian insurance brokers and are here to help!


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