Vaping And Life Insurance

Vaping And Life Insurance

8 Jun 2019

An estimated 2.9 million adults currently vape in the UK. Over half of all vapers have quit smoking cigarettes all together, many have used their e-cig to ease the transition. So that’s a good thing, right? 

Absolutely, but don’t get suckered in to thinking that vaping is a risk-free wonder-cure to nicotine addiction - it’s not without its issues.

First, as you’re probably aware, vaping contains nicotine. It’s inhaled as a cloud of water vapor, sucked into the user’s mouth and goes down into the lungs. Conventional cigarettes burn tobacco which contains nicotine as well as tar, carbon monoxide, and plenty of other nasties. 

Removing the add-ons is a huge step in the right direction. In fact Public Health England's 2015 independent review found that, based on the available evidence, vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking.

But hold on there, if it still contains nicotine then how is it so much better? Well, nicotine is the addictive substance in cigarettes but it’s relatively harmless on its own. Almost all of the harm caused by smoking comes via the thousands of chemicals contained in tobacco smoke. Nicotine replacement therapy has long been used to help smokers to quit - and let’s be honest; it smells a lot better.

So just what are the problems then?

Well we need more time on that one. As mentioned by Public Health England and backed-up by the Royal College of Physicians, all data relating to vaping is based on ‘available evidence.’ 

As a relatively new invention - dreamt-up in 2003 by a Chinese smoker - very little can be said for the long-term effects of vaping. We simply don’t know yet. Research is ongoing and experts agree on only one thing: we need longer-term data on the effects of vaping before we can truly sing its praises.

Does it count as smoking?

In most public places - yes. And if you speak to many UK insurance firms and the answer’s the same - yes. If you have smoked an e-cigarette (just one puff will do it) within the last twelve months, then you’re a smoker and treated the same way as if you have a 40-a-day cigarette habit.

It’s well-known that smoking ups your life insurance premium. Research by MoneySupermarket suggests smokers - including e-cigarette puffers - can expect to see increases in life insurance costs of up to 65%. In monetary terms that’s, typically, £26 extra per month or £312.84 a year. It’s significant. 

The main industry players all appear to toe the same line with vaping. Most don’t differentiate between cigarettes and vaping for the purposes of life insurance. 

At LifeSearch we work with a small number of partners who do treat vaping as a lesser form of smoking, so get in touch if you want to explore options. 

And before you consider withholding your vaping habit from your insurer, failure to disclose can cost. If a policy is taken out under non-smoker rates and evidence surfaces of smoking when a claim arises, then that policy will almost certainly be invalidated or corrected, to your financial disadvantage.

The politics of vaping

Our colonial cousins are known for taking a harder-stance on e-cigarettes than Brits. A study in the 2014 New England Journal of Medicine stated that “electronic cigarettes may function as a ‘gateway drug’ that can prime the brain to be more receptive to harder drugs.”

The American heart association also says the practice of vaping is ‘re-normalising’ cigarette use, cancelling out the hard-won gains of the past few decades which have seen smoking rates plummet on a global scale without the need for e-cigs.

It has been suggested, however that anti-vaping sentiment in the U.S (and voiced by some prominent UK politicians) is fuelled by the economic problems it poses. Vaping is killing the cash-cow of cigarette tax, that ironically generates billions in funding for the UK health service per year. Vaping currently attracts 20% standard rate tax so the UK public purse is seeing tobacco tax income take a hit. 

What the law says

Medical and scientific opinion in the UK is more forgiving towards e-cigarette use than in America. However, there are still strict regulations in place. Classified as a tobacco product, vaping comes with stringent guidelines. The EU tobacco products directive prohibits the use of vaping products on our televisions. No product-placement, no soap opera stars having a casual on-screen puff; absolutely no advertisement of vaping is allowed, and this goes for radio and published print too.

So if vaping is so beneficial, then why the embargo on advertising? Well the NHS and many other medical authorities might be in loose agreement about it being 95% less harmful than smoking tobacco, but it’s still 100% more harmful than not smoking at all. Basically anything that can be done to improve the numbers of non-smoking Brits (80% at last count according to the NHS) should be encouraged. Can’t say fairer than that, right? Advertising limits are also geared to reducing exposure of vaping to under-18s.

A final word

While vaping is undoubtedly looked at more favourably than smoking cigarettes, and by many professional accounts this appears to be justified, we definitely need more time to investigate its effects. 

The cautious optimism, wait-and-see sentiment is echoed in regulation and by life insurance providers. There are some who view vaping as a cure to the plague of tobacco, and others who see it as a whole new epidemic of its own. 

Whatever it is, it appears to be here to stay, and whether this is good or bad, only time can tell.

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