Do You Smoke an Occasional Cigar?

Do You Smoke an Occasional Cigar?

I guess because I live in Tennessee and it was known for many years as tobacco country, there are still a lot of tobacco smokers. Tobacco use is a very expensive rating on life insurance policies, usually double or triples the non tobacco rate. Most life insurance companies do not distinguish between the different types of tobacco use. Whether a person smokes cigarettes, chews tobacco, dips tobacco, chews nicotine gum and wears a nicotine patch, they are all considered for tobacco rates. The one exception I have found is the occasional cigar smoker. There are a few companies that do allow a person to smoke an occasional cigar and still receive non tobacco rates on their life insurance.

I have personally found a couple of life insurance company underwriters willing to give the occasional cigar smoker a break on their life insurance premiums. They do have to meet the following criteria. They cannot smoke more than 12 cigars per year or one per month. Remember it is the occasional cigar smoker they are looking for not the weekly cigar smokers. When the paramedical examiner or nurse comes out to collect blood and urine samples, they must test negative for tobacco use. Here is the little secret. Most life insurance companies are not only testing for nicotine but also cotine. It is true that an occasional cigar smoker can be nicotine free in about 48 hours. However, cotine stays in the blood for up to 14 days. Therefore, to write an n occasional cigar smoker and secure a non tobacco rate, he or she must not use any tobacco 14 days prior to the paramedical exam and not smoking more than one cigar per month.

Certainly the best way to get the best rates on life insurance is to stop smoking or nicotine intake all together. Even if you quit almost all underwriters are going to want to see you nicotine free for at least one year in order to give you the non tobacco rate. That clock does not start on your last cigarette but on the last time you wore a patch or chewed nicotine gum. Remember they are looking for nicotine and cotine which still shows positive in your blood while using non smoking aids.

If you are using tobacco I wish you the best of luck in the journey to becoming smoke free.

I’m at the age now where just putting my cigar in its holder is a thrill.George Burns

Image by Gualberto 107 at www.freedigitalphotos.net


Tim Wilhoit is owner/principal of Your Friend 4 Life Insurance Agency in Nashville, TN. He is a family man, father of 3, entrepreneur, insurance agent, life insurance broker, salesman, sales trainer, recruiter, public speaker, blogger and team leader with over 27 years of experience in sales and marketing in the insurance and beverage industries.

58 Responses to Do You Smoke an Occasional Cigar?

  • I had a life insurance candidate one time that swore he did not smoke. When tested – he DID smoke. When I asked him he said “I just have a cigarette when I have a beer or two.” Seems every weekend he had a beer or two and was uprated to a smoker. He was not a happy camper but was a good enough friend that I could ask him – what do you think it takes to be considered a smoker? He said – well if I don’t carry them with me – I don’t think I am a smoker. He did not buy the policy.

  • Mary, it is funny how people view their smoking habits. I had an interesting case a few months ago as well. The carrier’s app I was writing ask for tobacco use. He answered no that he had quit smoking 4 years ago. The app came back 300% higher as a smoker. When I called him he said he chewed nicotine gum whenever he got stressed out which apparently was about everyday. Unfortunately, I couldn’t save that one. Now regardless of the carriers app I ask nicotine along with tobacco, no more surprises. Thank you for sharing that story.

  • Our priest quit smoking by using the nicotine gum. He joked that now he had dental problems instead of breathing problems. LOL…Good question I guess is the “do you do ANY type of nicotine.” When we teach our life classes – we may mention your story. 300% is a pretty good up rate for a bunch of packages of gum!

  • I smoked three cigars when I turned 60. I believe I used some life insurance policies to ignite them

  • Bill awesome! That is funny!

  • Tim –
    Thanks for the great article, and the wonderful George Burns quote.
    Another element for us in this profession to consider is the real inflation rate.

    The Chambers Brothers lyrics from 1966 even ring true today – “ohh the rules have changed today, hey – now the time has come – there are things to realize.”

    So while the fabricated “perception” that inflation is low benefits the financial markets, the average person feels the reality every day with a true non-manipulated current inflation rate running at 6-8% in the real world where most of us live.

    That being said, some people may want some Kentucky bourbon with their cigar.

  • Dan, thank you for kind words. I couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. Thank you for sharing them.

  • Who offers cigar smokers the best rates?

  • Minnesota Life will allow 12 per year. Prudential is also a good carrier for occasional smokers/tobacco users.

  • Chris I agree and Al also try AXA Equitable has great rates and allows up to 12 cigars per year.

  • well the first thing is if your client smokes Cigar , chews or dips there are several companies out there that will write them as a non-smoker.

  • Greg, would you share a few? I aware of a few carriers on occasional cigars but not chewing or dipping tobacco, gum or patches that are fully underwritten.

  • Excellent points Tim, insurance companies the world over have different approaches and attitudes. Pays to ask the questions and provide the relevant disclosures. Here in NZ under 2 cigars per month or a pipe smoker we can place non-smoking rates with some carriers.

  • Cigars, Pipes & Chewing Tobacco users get Non-Smoker Rates with Americo Ultra Protector Series….I think I’ll go out on the balcony now and light up an Aging Room Cigar. It’s almost 4pm.

  • Thanks! That was very interesting and informative.

  • I do enjoy a cigar from time to time, 3-4 a year. I just applied for Transamerica and they claim I was a smoker but I hadn’t had a cigar in months.

  • Steven, Transamerica are like the majority of carriers when it comes to tobacco use. If you are nicotine free and only smoking that little try AXA Equable. Let me know if you need any assistance. My direct line is (615) 294-5677. Good luck!

  • Prudential and Americo are two that allow you to smoke many more cigars than 3-4 per yr and still be listed as NT. Pru over AXA all day long in my opinion.

  • Stephen, this is true, but only if you like higher premiums. AXA is more affordable than Pru at least in most states.

  • Depends on age, amount, gender, health, etc etc etc. I’ve seen many times where PRU was lower priced than AXA. Let’s just agree both could be good options for the occasional cigar smoker.

  • Agreed, I appreciate you sharing your knowledge in this discussion.

  • I wrote a client who used dipping tobacco with Prudential on a 20 year term policy and he was rated standard non-smoker. That is the only carrier I know of that will give non-smoker to people who chew tobacco.

  • I forgot about Prudential, Tom Lincoln Financial and Pacific life also write them non smoker

  • Attentiion.Mr.Greg and Mr Tom.
    Do you have any client from India who want to do Life Insurance only in India You can Recomend for his well being .
    Even if you come across to guide him we will do it.
    I appreciate your reply soon.

  • Tim, thank you. Good article.

    I should, however, refer to the sentence in the article:

    “They cannot smoke more than 12 cigars per year or one per month ”

    It is imperative to carefully, very carefully pay attention to the wordings of the application form questions as well as the actual contract wordings. This is a minefield, particularly if the wording is “one cigar per month” or the more liberal, “12 cigars per year”.

    Technically speaking the above two phrases are substantially different. Under “once cigar per month”, a person smoking 2 cigars within one month, none in the following 11 months and one in the 12th months (a total of 3 in the 12 months period) would render the person a “smoker” while under the “12 cigars per year” the person technically would be a “non-smoker”. Since denial of a claim for misrepresentation of tobacco consumption is a serious matter, one should not view “once cigar per month” as the same or even similar to “12 cigars per year”

    Moreover, for anyone shopping for life insurance, be careful not to fall pray to questions at web sites such as “smoker” or “are you a smoker”.

    If you have EVER smoked or consumed tobacco or nicotine or related substances, consult with a professional life insurance agent or broker who is properly equipped and also knowledgeable.

  • Ami, thank you for your kind words about my article. I do understand your concerns. However, I was not speaking of a particular life insurance company when I wrote this. I personally represent scores of carriers. The sentence of concern was a generic “or” not a literal one. I believe almost all agents do read the question as asked on the application. My point was most carriers have their own unique way of asking the tobacco question especially since most now use a short app or drop ticket. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, I do appreciate it.

  • John Hancock has favorable ratings for the occasional cigar.

  • There are a couple of companies that will allow for best class nonsmoker rates with a negative specimen, even if an applicant smokes a cigar every week. If any agents would like a field underwriting tool that outlines how various companies look at cigar use, I have a piece that I would be happy to provide. It is helpful in determining which carrier will treat your cigar smokers the most favorably.

  • Thanks for the tips guys! What I’m trying to do is find an insurer who will write Electronic Cigarette (e-Cig) users who no longer smoke cigarettes (for over a year or two). See, the applications usually say “do you use any TOBACCO products”. With e-Cigs they are NOT tobacco products, they are nicotine products. I would think an applicant could legally answer that question as “NO”. Then again a blood test would show nicotine in the blood and they will be rated as a smoker and flaged as a potential commit’er of fraud. They would have to stay under the face amount requiring a blood test. I’ve read research that shows nicotine is no worse for you than caffeine. Electronic Cigarettes do not have all the tar and other carcinogens that cigarettes and cigars have. Of course nicotine AND caffeine can cause high BP if used in too large quantities…yet caffeine is not a substance that would cause a higher premium. IMHO I personally feel the Tobacco Nazis have placed such a big scare on the American public that insurers don’t want to look at the reality of things and just rate anything that has nicotine associated with it.

    Does anyone know of a carrier who sees this as I do? I would like to not only sell it to the public but I also need to renew my term policy that was written as a non-smoker from back when I used the “occasional cigar”.

  • e-Cigs help people quit smoking cigarettes yet they are bastardized the same. Even the government is trying tax them. Then again e-Cigs are taking away precious government tax revenue from cigarettes. Insurers should look more favorably on e-Cigs and not as additional revenue as the government does.

  • Andrew, I have found e-cigs are rated because of the nicotine the same as the nicotine gum or patch. It is a great tool to stop smoking for some but until they are nicotine free for at least one year, I have found they still have to pay the tobacco rate.

  • I’m an e-cig user. I started 4 years ago. I no longer have any nicotine in my e-cigs. I use juices that have no nicotine in them. I know hundreds of people that have quit smoking analogs using e-cigs. Let me know if you find someone that will treat it differently.

  • Tim
    Pru owns the market these days as far as e-cigs go provided it is the water based delivery system. Applicants can get standard plus nonsmoker rates with them.

  • Greg, that is good news, thank you for sharing it!

  • I second Steve, Pru will give them Std non +, Assuming qualified. Add Cincinnati Life to the list as well.


  • Ladies and Gentlemen,
    In my experience, Pru and Americo have had a moderate toleration of cigar usage. The bigger issue is the fact that the public does not recognize the use of nicotine in ANY form (patch, cigarette, cigar, piper, snuff, chew, dip, spit…you get the picture) is going to send most carriers into oblivion relative to smoker vs non-smoker status. I have reached the point where I use the question of “do use nicotine in any form?” has become my standard question. I can;t tell the number of times an applicant has tagged up positive, even for occasional use. The other issue that will come up is that someone will say they tested positive from “secondhand smoke”….In a phrase, it is not possible under any circumstance to test positive from secondhand smoke. Your thoughts please.

  • Interesting and informative discussion. Thanks!

  • Many companies are asking these questions for job applicants and if you smoke, even an occasional cigar, you will get rejected.

  • How about e-cigarettes? I think the jury’s still out on long-term health implications of using these as an alternative to using tobacco products, but would regular use of an e-cigarette give a positive cotine reading?

  • Paul, I agree the jury is out with e-cigs. I have no knowledge of a long term user testing positive for cotine on e-cigs. Perhaps another agent here has come across a case and could share the results.

  • As far as second hand smoke, I would be hesitant to state this: .

    In a phrase, it is not possible under any circumstance to test positive from secondhand smoke.

    It certainly is possible to test positive from second hand smoke though it’s highly improbable.

  • From people I know that use e-cigs, apparently there are a multitude of choices for the “vapor” fluid. Many of which contain nicotine. The was a recent news story on the poisonous hazards of these to small children, since the small squeeze bottles may be attractive to tots. Quite a few are flavored as well, so that additional aspect could create a further (attractive) danger to children. Or anyone that swallowed it right from the bottle. I suspect that if the user was “vaping” primarily a nicotine based fluid that they would test just as positive on either of the aforementioned tests as any other tobacco user.
    Really surprised about the standardization of “occasional” cigar smokers. Most actuaries that I’ve worked with over the years insist on “tobacco” rates because of the ease in which tobacco users will substitute another form when their preferred one is unavailable.

  • Not sure what you mean by the “standardization” of “occasional” cigar smokers.
    It’s the wise few carriers out there that realize true “occasional” cigar smokers, (which I am one) are not likely to use other tobacco products such as cigarettes. In fact, in my circle of cigar friends, not a single one smokes cigarettes.
    On the flipside, every e-cig user I know, and I know over 100, nearly all of them still cheat and smoke cigarettes on occasion.

  • Stephen – Unless I completely misread some of the preceding comments (and admittedly not being totally familiar with the application questions and underwriting standards/investigation methods of the companies mentioned), my perception was that an “occasional” cigar smoker would get non-tobacco rates from those firms. Whatever we wish to call it “Regular”, “Standard”, perhaps even “Preferred”. Do they get tested for nicotine/cotinine more frequently during the application process or thereafter ? Is there a separate and distinct statement they attest to during that process ? Harsher language in the misrepresentation of health/fraud section of the contract should they actually be found to be “cheaters” bent on getting better rates ? I’ve been in underwriting a long, long time and am just as curious as to the “whys” as the end results.
    Having also been around numerous professed cigar smokers on the links, some, not all, but some, will have the occasional cigarette or “pinch” during or after a game when they have run out of, or don’t have access to, their preferred smoke.
    I personally consider all e-cig smokers to be smokers, not cheaters. To me it’s just a different delivery system.
    Would love to hear from some lab folks on how they distinguish these groups. Possibly proprietary info, but doesn’t hurt to ask.

  • I think you may have misunderstood. There is no standardization on this any more than controlled diabetes getting std with some companies. With the companies mentioned they can qualify for std or std+. Same exam requirements weather they are applying for tobacco, non tobacco or preferred non. Example Chew can be Std+ with Cincinnati Life, as long as disclosed, but will be Tobacco with Protective. I am not an underwriter. However I have been a Life Insurance agent for a few years. Also for the most part this in not up to the underwriter, they have manuals they underwrite by.

  • As a smoking/tobacco cessation expert who has taught people how to quit for decades, and as someone who has also been a licensed insurance agent for decades (no longer selling, so not familiar with most current underwriting rules), I’m shocked to hear that some companies assign preferred rates to the occasional cigar smoker. I know how little it takes to cause disease that kills, and no one knows whether he/she will be the one who gets hit in the game of Russian Roulette. And I can’t understand how people who use e-cigs aren’t rated. Whether or not they test positive for nicotine, the level of poison in those cartridges is ridiculous and, in my viewpoint, using them is a form of self-harm (sadly, often unknowingly). I wish I could educate everyone about the dangers, but I can only help those who reach out to me! By all means, reach out to me if you have clients who want to quit, whether to attain preferred rating or just because they want to get healthy.

    • An occasional cigar is not a particularly large health risk. There is no “safe” level of alcohol use either when it comes to cancer, according to the UK health service.

      I am sure the companies that rate favorably know their actuarial tables.

  • Thank you Meryl, I totally agree. Thank you for sharing both the information and your services.

  • http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/smoking-cessation/10-facts-about-e-cigarettes.htm#page=3

    I thought this was a good read for insight from both the eyes of the consumer and Life Insurance companies. Remember Life Insurance companies are not in the business of declining or providing high rates, its about risk of mortality and their promise of sustainability to the clients they have approved.

    “Liquid nicotine is extracted from tobacco, but unlike tobacco leaves, liquid nicotine can be lethal. It can cause harm when it’s inhaled, but it can also be harmful when ingested or absorbed through your skin. Only a small dose is dangerous — less than one tablespoon of many of the e-liquids on the market is enough to kill an adult, and as little as a teaspoon could kill a child) [source: Richtel]. The number of calls to poison control centers regarding e-cigarette nicotine-infused liquids rose sharply every month between September 2010 and February 2014, from just one call per month to as many as 215 — that’s a rise from 0.3 percent to 41.7 percent of all emergency calls. As many as 51.1 percent of those calls involved accidental poisoning of kids under the age of 5 (roughly 42 percent involved adults age 20 or older) [source: CDC].

    Some testing suggests it’s not only the nicotine that may be dangerous. Certain e-cigarette devices may also release metals during use — including tin in some cases — as well as other impurities known to be toxic and/or carcinogenic.”

  • Amber, wow what an eye opening article. I really appreciate you sharing it. Thank you, scary stuff!

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  • Three-quarters of all cigar aficionados are only occasional smokers. Most life insurance companies define that as one per month, though a couple of carriers have liberalized their rules to allow up to four per month, and under those terms they rate your risk of death for insurance purposes as “non-tobacco user.”

    AIG and ING have the best rates for celebratory cigar smokers, says Udell, and would charge a 40-year-old male a non-tobacco rate of only $400 a year for a $500,000 20-year-term level-premium life insurance policy. By contrast, the smoker’s rate for the same coverage would be $1,400. Premiums, of course, vary by the insured’s age, sex, and health history and status.

    To get coverage, you must answer “yes” in response to the life insurance application question about whether you’ve used any tobacco products in the last five years. In the “If yes, explain” section, honestly describe how many cigars you puff per year.

  • That’s interesting Lynn, I find other carriers such as AXA, Protective and John Hancock have favorable ratings for the occasional cigar smoker. Carriers have seemed to go the other direction with the “Vapors”.

  • I love it! Excellent article. Thanks for the sharing

  • Many life insurance companies will allow the “celebratory” or “occasional” cigar smoker to still qualify for non-smoking rates. Insurers generally define “occasional” as smoking 12 cigars or less per year. Of course, the urine sample you provide for your life insurance medical exam must be nicotine-free, too.

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