How does vaping affect life insurance?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the insurance industry views smoking as a high risk activity; but how do they view vaping? This article aims to explain the difference between smoking and vaping in the eyes of the providers.
I’ve recently had occasion to purchase life insurance. As a vaper, I envisaged being applauded and rewarded with lower premiums for doing the right thing for my health. So, it was quite a shock to learn that, in the eyes of the insurance industry, I’m still classed as a smoker. Indignant, and curious, I wanted to learn more about how vaping and smoking affect life and critical illness insurance.
How does smoking affect insurance?
Firstly, let me say that I totally get why insurance companies take a dim view of smoking. It’s one of the biggest causes of death and illness in the UK. Around 78,000 people in the UK die every year from smoking; and many more live with seriously debilitating smoking-related illnesses.
All of the health risks associated with smoking drastically bump up the cost of life and critical illness insurance policies for anyone who smokes.
On average, premiums are roughly a third higher for a 30 year old smoker, and more than double for a 50 year old smoker, when compared to non-smokers of the same age. In fact, some providers have been known to increase premiums by as much as 200%!
How does vaping affect insurance?
If you’re reading this article, the likelihood is that you are, or have been, a smoker who understands that vaping is one of the best ways of permanently getting off the ciggies for the sake of your health.
Available evidence, from highly credible sources, assures us that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Surely that makes vapers lower risk than smokers?
Which is why I was stunned to learn that there is no vaping or nicotine replacement (NRT) category on insurance forms. You’re either a smoker or you’re not. Black and white - there are currently no shades of grey within the insurance industry.
In order to be classed as a non-smoker, insurers require you to be totally free of all nicotine products - not tobacco products. That means anyone using NRT such as gum, patches, inhalers, and e-cigarettes, will receive the same inflated insurance premiums as a smoker.
Why don’t insurers reward vapers?
If anyone asks me if I smoke, my answer is always, unequivocally, NO! I haven’t touched a cigarette for over 6 years now, thanks to my trusty vape pen. Yet, from an insurance point of view, I wasn’t able to tick the non-smoker box. According to them, nicotine is nicotine and, regardless of its delivery method, it’s still bad for you.
For most insurance providers, you can only tick the non-smoker box after you have been nicotine free for at least 12 months.
They claim that this is because the long term health effects from vaping are still not conclusive. However, there is another reason why they lump vapers and smokers together.
In order to grant and/or validate policies, insurers will occasionally require a saliva, urine, or blood test to ensure that the policyholder has been completely transparent and honest.
These tests are checking for the presence of nicotine; one particular urine analysis, known as a cotinine test, can detect nicotine in a person’s system for days - even weeks if they are a heavy user. As the tests are only screening for the presence of nicotine, they can’t distinguish if that nicotine came from an e-cigarette or from tobacco. Therefore, until they come up with more sophisticated testing methods, it’s likely that vapers and smokers will continue to receive the same punitive premiums.
As a vaper, should I just say I’m a non-smoker?
Absolutely not! Not informing your insurance provider of nicotine usage is classed as ‘material misrepresentation’ and you risk being refused a policy if you are found out.
There’s no point thinking that you won’t get found out either. The amount of screenings that insurance companies request is on the rise. Insurance giant, Legal & General requests screenings for 15-20% of applicants. Aviva also require around 15% of their applicants to have a medical and/or provide a report from their GP. They defend the practice by saying that the additional medical information makes for more accurate premiums; plus it reduces the risk of a claim dispute.
Even if the policy is granted without a screening, if you go on to die of an illness that could be smoking related, and it turns out that you haven’t disclosed nicotine usage, your policy will likely not pay out the full sum - if at all!
What about nicotine free e-liquid?
Some of the top insurance providers will take a different view if you are a vaper of zero nicotine e-juice. They only require their customers to inform them about e-cigarette usage where nicotine is involved. Therefore, even as a current vaper, if you’ve worked your way down to zero nic e-liquid, and you have been nicotine free for 12 months, you can tick the non-smoker box. Hurrah!
Are there any insurers who don’t penalise vapers?
Many insurance companies have acknowledged the benefits of vaping over smoking. However, changes to policies have been very slow on the uptake and the majority of premiums remain high for vapers.
At the time of writing this article, I could only find one UK insurer that offers cheaper premiums to vapers. They claim to offer non-smoker rates to anyone who hasn’t smoked tobacco products in over 12 months. This is a great start and we hope to see more insurance providers following suit.
Vaping and insurance in summary
In the UK alone, millions of smokers have turned to vaping to benefit their health. It’s a growing trend and the insurance industry needs to get to grips with it sooner rather than later. It is massively unfair to punish vapers, and sends negative messages to people who want to quit smoking.
However, until the insurers catch up, you shouldn’t let the higher life or critical illness premiums deter you from the far greater benefits that can be gained from switching from smoking to vaping. Plus, by reducing the nicotine content of your vape to zero over time, you can soon report to your insurance provider that you’ve been happily nicotine free for over 12 months and get your premiums revised.
We're here to help you quit smoking for good
At Vape UK, we pride ourselves on being responsible vaping advocates. We keep up to date with all of the latest news and studies; we only supply high quality TPD compliant vaping products; and we are always on hand to offer helpful and honest advice about vaping. Please get in touch if you have any queries on quitting smoking.
- Nicola Webster