I know I’ve been all about the downside of smoking and life insurance this week. I’ve gone on and on about the valid reasons why life insurance underwriters are a bit brutal when it comes to smoking, especially in combination with health issues that are caused by smoking or are exacerbated by smoking.

So, in an effort to end the week on an upbeat note, I thought I would shift gears from cigarettes to cigars. While most of us can probably agree that there are fewer known health risks connected to cigar smoking, primarily because you’ll kill yourself if you inhale, most insurance companies treat cigar and cigarette smokers exactly the same. If you smoke, you’re a smoker.

There are a handful of companies that allow “occasional” cigar use at rates as good as their best non smoking rates, but they are all over the map on what they call occasional. For instance, West Coast Life says 6 per year or less, Banner Life is at 1 per month, and Genworth is 1 per month.  Keep in mind that life insurance exams test for nicotine, and there is a requirement with all “occasional use” companies that you test negative for nicotine. I always encourage the “occasional” applicants to lay off the occasions for 2-3 weeks before the exam. One of my clients recently disregarded that suggestion and had a cigar 2 days prior to the exam and blew his chance for some great rates.

There are a few more companies that actually allow you to celebrate all year. American General and ING Reliastar will allow a cigar a week, but again you have to test negative for nicotine. Just in case anyone thinks I am gaming the system by suggesting to clients to lay off for 2-3 weeks, these companies know that if someone smokes 1 per week consistently they will test positive. They also know that the agents recommend a hiatus and as long as the labs show what they want to see, they will approve it.

Many more companies offer their second best non smoking rate for occasional use. Included in that group would be Savings Bank Life who will allow a “few cigars a year”, North American at 2 or less per month and Lincoln Benefit at 1 per month. Again, negative nicotine.

The standout company in the crowd is Prudential who will allow cigars, pipes or chew at standard plus non smoking rates. No limits are required and they expect a positive nicotine result. They are the go to company for pipes and chew and for anyone that will have a problem showing a negative nicotine level.

Bottom line. At least there are options when it comes to cigars, pipes and chew. When it comes to cigarettes, the rate choices are high or higher.