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One of the biggest life insurance rate hits is for those who smoke. There is some logic to that given the link between cigarette smoking and cancer and heart disease, but are the underwriters throwing apples and oranges in the same basket and assuming they all taste the same?

More companies than not bulk all forms of tobacco use in the same category as cigarette smoking, so for those who are cigar smokers or chew tobacco, even though the mortality risk is much different than for cigarette smoking, they pay the same rates. While most companies don’t really care if that is fair, some distinguish between the different forms of tobacco use and offer non smoking rates to.

To put this more in perspective, the cost difference between smoking and non smoking is about the same as that between someone in perfect health and someone with type 2 diabetes. Given the huge mortality risk hit appointed to smokers, the logic for that same risk for cigar smokers isn’t just thin, it’s absent.

There are companies out there who graciously allow an “occasional” cigar without taking someone to the cleaners. American General will even allow one cigar a week and still offer their best rate. The caveat and, in my mind, the bait and switch of that offer is that they also say you have to have a negative nicotine test on your labs. Given the length of time it takes for nicotine to leave the system, one cigar a week and a negative result on nicotine don’t logically match up. Most companies that allow occasional cigar use define it as one per month or four to six per year and negative nicotine.

There are a few companies out there who simply stand out on the issue. The goal of anyone who uses tobacco or nicotine other than cigarettes should be an approval at non smoker rates, rates that reflect the difference in mortality. Prudential Financial for instance will allow non smoking rates for tobacco use other than cigarettes even with a positive nicotine lab result. They don’t cap the amount of use in an attempt to paint you into an occasional corner.

Bottom line. If you smoke cigars or chew, and are being offered smoking rates or having a policy in force with smoking rates, seek out an independent agent who can guide you to the lower rates that are available, the rates that you deserve.