How Cigar Smoking Affects Life Insurance


It’s often thought – mostly by cigar smokers – that cigar smoking has no effect on life insurance. After all, it isn’t real smoking of cigarettes, the kind of smoking everyone seems to hate these days. But, in point of fact, cigar smoking does affect life insurance, because cigar smoking is not without risks. And those risks are very similar to the those associated with smoking regular cigarettes.

Cigar smoking is still tobacco

What cigar smokers, and even non-cigar smokers, often forget is that cigar smoking – like regular cigarettes – is still based on the use of tobacco. In all forms, cigarettes, tobacco chewing, pipe smoking, and yes, cigars, all involve the use of tobacco. Because of the toxic nature of the makeup of the plant itself, any use of tobacco can cause health risks.

In regard to cigar smoking, there are risks of cancer – just as there are any other tobacco consumption – as well as oral decay, which could bring on cancer, or other forms of degenerative conditions that can lead to an early death.

Life insurance companies recognize these risks, and will classify you in a higher risk category if you are a cigar smoker.

Health risks associated with cigar smoking

Cigar smoking has been closely linked with various forms of cancer. This includes not only lung cancer, but cancer of the mouth, tongue, throat, and esophagus. Cigar smoking is also linked to pancreatic cancer, and like all forms of tobacco consumption it’s also closely associated with heart disease and diseases of the lungs.

One of the under appreciated aspects of cigar smoking is that the tobacco concentration is significantly greater than what it is for cigarettes. According to the National Cancer Institute, the concentration of tobacco in one large, premium cigar can be the equivalent of a pack of 20 cigarettes. This is true at least in part because a large cigar can take anywhere from one to two hours to smoke. The more time spent smoking any form of tobacco, the greater the health risks involved.

What about occasional cigar smoking?

Some life insurance applicants will list themselves as a “non-smoker” if they only smoke cigars on occasion. But the problem with occasional cigar smoking is that the definition of occasional is completely subjective. For example, as a cigar smoker, you may consider yourself a non-smoker since you “only” smoke a cigar two or three cigars per week. The insurance company by contrast, may consider the dividing line between smoker and non-smoker to be the consumption of more than one cigar per month.

By the insurance company’s definition, you may be considered a smoker because you consume anywhere from 8 to 12 cigars per month – well in excess of the company’s official dividing line.

You won’t be able to hide your cigar habit

Though you may classify yourself as an occasional smoker – and list yourself as a non-smoker on a life insurance application – there is a very high likelihood that the insurance company will discover that you are in fact a smoker.

When you apply for life insurance, the underwriting department will verify any information that is included on your application, as well as cross reference the application against available health information to determine if there are any discrepancies.

Insurance companies typically order “MIB reports”, which are a compilation of your previous medical experiences, very similar to a credit report. If anything in that report indicates that you may be a smoker, the insurance company will automatically reclassify you as such.

The company may also require a life insurance medical exam. That would include taking urine samples, which would be analyzed looking for, among other things, the presence of nicotine. Should they decide to decline your life insurance application, the reason for the decline would be available to other life insurance companies, making it impossible for you to avoid disclosure in the future.

The nightmare outcome of not disclosing your cigar smoking habit

If you fail to disclose your cigar smoking habit on the life insurance application, and the insurance company fails to detect it, it could lead to the possibility of a nightmare outcome.

If your death is ultimately traced to the use of tobacco products – which you did not disclose on the application – the insurance company may not pay the death benefit to your survivors. The nondisclosure of your cigar smoking habit can be considered insurance fraud, and sufficient legal grounds for the insurance company to deny your family’s claim.

Be sure to disclose any cigar smoking habit that you have. And rather than withholding information, instead work with an insurance agent who can place your application with an insurance company that has a more favorable view of either occasional cigar smoking, or smoking in general.