With recent vaping related deaths and illnesses across the US, how does it affect how the life insurance industry views vaping and policy rates?
Vape and E-cigarette users have long argued that it’s safer than smoking actual cigarettes or tobacco. However, recent studies show that while not exactly similar in effects, vaping raises the risk of acquiring acute or chronic lung disease by a significant amount.
This, of course, translates to a higher health risk rating. While there’s still much to uncover and learn about the actual effects of vaping, insurance and reinsurance companies consider it as similar to smoking, making it almost 100% guaranteed that you’ll pay more for life insurance if you vape.
In this article, we’ll cover the following: what vaping is and how it started, its effects on your body, how life insurance companies treat vape users when it comes to underwriting, and how vaping affects your life insurance rates in general.
A Brief History of Vaping
The vape and e-cigarette versions that we know today were the brainchild of a Chinese pharmacist named Hon Lik. A heavy smoker, Hon Lik used to smoke up to 3 packs a day. To help him stop his addiction, he created a device in 2003 that could utilize vapor to mimic cigarette smoke.
More than a decade later, Hon would sell his e-cigarette company to Imperial Tobacco Group and became one of the biggest pioneering companies to sell e-cigarettes to the world market.
Today’s modern vape versions feature a combination of the following: a heating element (coil), the tank that will hold the liquid (juice), and a battery. There is a myriad of variations in the market right now which allows users to modify the vapor quality, tank capacity, and battery power.
Fast forward to today, in the US, specifically, a quarter of America’s teens admit to having tried vaping. About 6% of total high schoolers across the country are regular vapers.
Key Facts About Vaping
Let’s take a quick look at some of the most important facts about e-cigarette and vape use.
- Vaping is considered less harmful than smoking, but it still increases the risks of developing certain lung illnesses and diseases by a significant amount.
- Research data show that vaping has negative effects in your heart and lungs
- E-cigarettes and vape may help regular tobacco and cigarette smokers kick the habit but some studies show that a number of users end up smoking both e-cigarettes and regular tobacco.
- Both products are highly addictive and not technically safer than smoking (it still contains nicotine and other ingredients)
- E-cigarettes and vape products are still highly unregulated, resulting in the non-standardization of its content. Nicotine content, for example, is highly variable with each brand or type of device. Some exceeding the levels found in traditional cigarettes.
- Recent (2019) studies and reports about vaping are focused on vaping liquids that contain the cannabis ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It’s a marijuana ingredient that has been linked to certain lung diseases in the US. Some vape and e-cigarettes containing THC have been found to contain vitamin E acetate. This is considered dangerous and to be the cause of EVALI (E-cigarette, Vaping-associated Lung Injury).
- In the UK and some other parts of Europe, vaping is highly regulated. These countries ban any vape devices or products that contain cannabis oil or THC.
What does Vaping Do To Your Body?
Recent research results link vaping to certain illnesses. But what and how exactly does vaping affect certain parts of the body? This section aims to give you an overview of its specific effects.
What Do Vapes and E-cigarettes contain?
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems or ENDS (the umbrella term for electronic cigarettes, vapes, and similar devices) contain e-liquid (commonly known as “juice”) that may or may not have nicotine in it. It also has varying levels of different flavorings, propylene glycol, and vegetable glycerin as its most common ingredients.
Since the vaping industry is still highly unregulated, there’s a wide variation among brands in terms of content. Some may contain ingredients and chemicals not present in others, with levels of nicotine also varying significantly. This makes it harder for certain studies to accurately establish standard truths and facts about its effects. Thereby, also making it difficult for the government to regulate its use.
Vaping and E-Cigarette Effects to the Body
|Lungs||Heart||Teeth and Gums||Brain|
|EVALI, which means E-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury has been closely associated with vitamin E acetate, which is commonly found in certain vape products||Certain studies show that using e-cigarettes may increase heart rate and blood pressure||One study revealed that e-cigarette aerosol may cause more bacteria to form between the pits and crevices of teeth. Another study showed that certain chemicals may trigger an inflammatory response in gum tissues which may lead to periodontal diseases.||Nicotine content may affect the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain|
|Contaminants that may be present in certain vape and e-cigarette products may trigger allergic or immune reactions and chemical irritation||E-cigarette use has been associated with increased risk of heart attack, angina, stroke, and certain heart diseases.||May cause gum inflammation and cell death which could lead to all sorts of diseases like dry mouth, bad breath, tooth decay, bone loss, periodontal disease||Brain imaging studies show that people who start smoking early may likely perform less in tasks that require memory and attention|
How Life Insurance Companies Assess Vape Users
Life insurance companies use a health rating table when underwriting applications. It works like a general guideline wherein your premiums will be determined depending on where you rank in the health class table. In general, it’s made up of the following 5 categories:
The best rating you can get. It means you’re in tip-top shape, have the ideal BMI (height to weight ratio), and no history of family disease. You follow a healthy lifestyle and generally don’t participate in activities that will increase your risk rating. This rating may sometimes be called as Super Preferred, Preferred Select, or Preferred Elite.
The next best thing, Preferred rating means you’re in excellent health overall but might have one or two minor health issues (high blood pressure or high cholesterol, for example).
An average life expectancy and generally good health (with no history of family illness) will likely net you a Standard Plus rating. Some companies refer to this as “Select” rating.
This is where premiums start to get pricier, but you’ll still be able to get decent coverage. Most applicants rated as “Standard” typically have a couple of health issues (overweight, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.,) and have a history of family disease.
Also known as Table Rating, this is for individuals who are considered high-risk and have serious health issues. In this category, your premiums will be determined by the standard price plus 25% each step down the table (A-J or 1-10
Most insurance companies classify Vape users as smokers. In general, smokers pay significantly more in premiums due to the lung and related health problems that may develop from the activity. Even if vape and e-cigarettes are not actual tobacco products, it should be disclosed by the applicant.
As of 2019, all insurance carriers in the US tag vape users as smokers in their health table ratings. Due to the various risks associated with inhaling chemical-filled vapors, insurance companies consider vaping as high-risk, resulting to more expensive premiums.
On average, smokers pay over $100 more a month in premiums versus non-smokers. Someone who would otherwise be rated as Standard Plus or even Standard will pay anywhere within $20-$50 a month for a 20-year term coverage for $500,000. But if tagged as a smoker/vape user, that could easily shoot up to $120-$140 in monthly premiums.
How Vaping Affects Life Insurance Rates and How to Find the Right Policy
If you vape or use e-cigarettes on a regularly and want life insurance, you should declare it on your application. Being truthful about your vaping habits will let you avoid potential headaches in the future. Such as, having your claim denied or getting the policy forfeited.
Life insurance companies consider the following factors when it comes to smoking:
How often you vape is the first thing that underwriters want to know. The general rule is that the more frequent you vape, the higher the risk you acquire.
How long have you been vaping?
If you’re answer is “more than a year”, expect insurers to place you significantly farther down the health class table. This is compared to someone who recently picked up the habit.
Do you also smoke regular tobacco?
One of the main reasons people switch to vape is to use it as a cessation tool against cigarette smoking. But studies show that a good number of these individuals end up smoking both regular and e-cigarette (including vape) variants. If you smoke both, then your risk rating naturally goes higher and you’ll likely end up paying more in premiums.
In general, if you’re over 30 years old and currently smoke (whether vape or regular tobacco), you’ll be rated with higher risk even if you’re in generally good health. This is because the effects of smoking will be more significant on older individuals than younger ones.
How Vaping Affects Life Insurance Rates
So how exactly can you get cheaper or more reasonable premiums if you are vaping? Well, there’s really no way around it. If you want the absolute lowest premiums you can get—you have to kick the habit.
But if you can’t, make sure to shop around as much as you can. Life insurance underwriting might be standard in general, but how they assign your health rating varies.
Also, getting the services of a certified financial planner or life insurance agent may help in landing you the best possible rates. That’s because they are familiar with each insurance company’s niches and process. They can help you find a policy that’s exactly fit for your situation.
Insurance companies will always view vaping as similar to smoking in terms of risk—at least right now. Some insurers were more lenient with their policies to vape users a few years back. But it’s a different scenario right now.
This year alone (2019), a number of cases of deaths and illnesses linked to vape products. As more studies continue finding about its effects and consequences to the body, insurance companies aren’t taking their chances—they’ll continue to charge more if you vape.
Hannover Re, one of the biggest reinsurers in the world, advised partner insurance companies to use caution in insuring people aged 25 and under after the recent occurrences of lung injuries linked to vaping. Two other reinsurers, SCOR and Swiss Re are taking the same stricter stance when it comes to underwriting vape users.
In the eyes of insurance companies, vaping is akin to smoking—and that means higher risk. And with higher risk comes more expensive premiums, whether you vape as a cessation device or as a habit. Vaping does affect life insurance rates and there is no way around that.
Regulating vape products are a step in the right direction, though it won’t solve or alleviate the health risks involved. Until more tests and studies can confirm its actual effects, insurance companies can only play it safe. This means they leverage more expensive premiums to vape-using policyholders. So yes, you can definitely purchase a life insurance policy even if you vape. Just expect to pay (a lot) more.
If you need help in getting the best life insurance rates for your needs with vaping, feel free to reach out to one of our registered life insurance agents for a free quote or advice. We are always happy to help.
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