How E-Cigarettes Can Affect Your Life Insurance Premium

Published: July 31, 2018

It's well known that one of the most significant differences in life insurance premiums comes down to whether you're classified as a smoker vs a non-smoker. But, did you know that using e-cigarettes or vaping can result in higher life cover premium rates?

E-cigarettes and life insurance have long been the subject of public, media and regulatory attention, especially since it’s illegal to buy, process or use liquid nicotine in e-cigarettes across Australia. This is largely due to the range of components in the juice and the variety of delivery devices.

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Let's start with a quick clarification on what electronic cigarettes are before we get into the topic of vaping and life insurance.

Are e-cigarettes and vaping the same thing?

Sort of. An e-cigarette is an electronic device shaped like a cigarette-, cigar or pen that heats up the e-liquid inside to the right temperature to create vapour. Vaping is the action that is performed when inhaling and exhaling that vapour. The e-liquid, or e-juice, is generally made up of 4 components, including Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, flavourings and nicotine.

Are e-cigarettes safe?

The safety of e-cigs cannot yet be determined due to the lack of evidence regarding its long-term effects. Compared to smoking, research studies suggest that vaping has significantly lower health risks. However, nicotine, even in small dosages remains highly addictive. When vaping without nicotine, there is still no conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes are harmless.

Are e cigarettes legal in Australia?

In Australia, it is currently illegal to sell, use or possess electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine. According to the World Health Organisation, most products that contain chemicals and get inhaled into the lungs should go through rigorous testing to prove they are safe. These tests have not yet been conducted in Australia, and thus safety cannot be guaranteed.

While e-cigarettes themselves are not illegal to be imported into Australia, they are not allowed to be sold under the guise of quitting devices or make any claim of therapeutic benefit. Selling the devices could also be problematic as under state and territory legislation, it is prohibited to sell goods which resemble tobacco products.

Is vaping considered smoking for insurance purposes?

Yes, you are generally still considered a smoker and smoker rates will apply when you vape, and the electronic cigarette contains nicotine. However, the jury is still out regarding vaping with zero-nicotine. To qualify for non-smoker rates, most companies will require you to quit smoking and abstain from nicotine use for a full 12 months.

Currently, when applying for life cover, insurers will typically ask whether you use any nicotine products. If you answer untruthfully, for example, you have the occasional e-cigarette at a party, and you one day need to lodge a claim, your benefit might be declined due.

Although all insurers have different definitions of what constitutes a smoker, most will require you to pay higher premiums if you:

  • Have smoked 1 or more cigarettes in the past 12 months.
  • Are taking nicotine replacement products such as Champix, Nicabate (including patches and gum) within 12 months of quitting smoking.
  • Smoke e-cigarettes.

So, if you haven’t used electronic cigarettes in the last 12 months, chances are you might get non-smoker rates.

Do e-cigarettes raise your life insurance premium?

Yes, generally most life insurance underwriters classify e-cigarette users as smokers and will request a higher premium, since most of the smoking cessation products use some sort of nicotine delivery. The increased premium is to protect the insurer from the known risk that smokers tend to die earlier than non-smokers and have an increased risk of developing certain illnesses, including cancer.

Because there is no long-term evidence about the safety of e-cigars and their impact on your health, insurance companies must act with caution. Whether vaping without nicotine will result in more expensive premiums usually depend on what's in the vapour you're inhaling.

Life insurance isn't a one size fit all. There are a lot of different policy types available from a variety of companies. By comparing quotes, you should be able to find one that suits your lifestyle.

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Vaping vs smoking

The main difference between nicotine cigarettes vs electronic cigarettes is the number of chemicals they contain. Cigarette smoke consists of thousands of chemicals, 20+ of which has been shown to have a connection to causing cancer. On the other hand, many of the chemicals found in vapour relate to the process of flavouring, with only 4 components regularly included; Propylene Glycol, Vegetable Glycerine, flavourings and nicotine

Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking?

The debate around e-cigarettes and their effects on your health are ongoing and remain inconclusive. While smoking electronic cigarettes compared to regular cigarettes means you are no longer inhaling over 4000 different chemicals and carcinogens into your lungs, the long-term health complications are not yet known.

The primary concern regarding e-cigs and vaping is how attractive it could seem to teenagers and young people, who then become addicted to nicotine.

Is nicotine free vaping safe?

It’s unclear how safe vaping without nicotine is because of all the possible chemicals in the e-liquid, the flavourings and the device itself. In a study conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration, the ingredients found in almost three-quarters of flavoured e-cigarettes were associated with respiratory disease. The truth is, the only safe thing you should be inhaling is fresh air.

It took decades before we realised that cigarettes could cause cancer, so stating that nicotine free vaping is safe without knowing the long-term side-effect would be irresponsible.

What are the side effects of vaping?

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Lung disease.
  • Risk of becoming dependent on nicotine.
  • Worsened asthma symptoms.
  • Increased chance of brain development issues in children.
  • A potential cause of allergies.
  • Mouth irritation.
  • Eye, throat and nose pain.
  • Nausea and vomiting.

Can vaping hurt your lungs?

Yes, the vapour you inhale contains chemicals and small particles which can reach deep into the lungs, irritating it and causing inflammation of the cells. When you're inhaling e-cigarettes smoke, you're inhaling water vapour and a mixture of chemicals which could make your more susceptible to bacterial lung infections, like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

What is popcorn lung from vaping?

Popcorn lung (bronchiolitis obliterans) is a severe and often permanent condition that scars and narrows the airways in your lungs. Diacetyl, a chemical once used to produce the artificial buttery flavour put on popcorn, is often used in vapour cigarettes. This chemical has been linked to severe and irreversible lung damage.

Can you get a heart attack from vape?

Vaping can cause artery damage that could lead to heart attacks and has been shown to increase the user's heart rate and blood pressure. A recent study published from the UC San Francisco and George Washington University suggests that daily vapour cigarette usage can increase your likelihood of a heart attack by double.

If you’ve recently stopped all nicotine use, including electronic cigarettes and vaping, consider shopping around and applying for life insurance after you’ve been ‘clean’ for 12 months.

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