De­spite be­ing mar­keted as a safer al­ter­na­tive to smok­ing, many in­sur­ers equate e-cig­a­rettes with the to­bacco va­ri­ety, writes An­gelique Ruz­icka

CityPress - - Tenders -

For most smokers keen on quit­ting, the bat­tle is on­go­ing. And while there is an ar­ray of tools, gad­gets, nico­tine patches, gum and self-help books out there to dis­cour­age smokers from light­ing up, some still strug­gle. How­ever, many have given elec­tronic cig­a­rettes (e-cig­a­rettes) a go and be­lieve this is the panacea to giv­ing up the real thing.

Vapers here in South Africa and abroad are spoilt for choice, with a re­ported 450 brands and more than 7 700 flavours to choose from. Ac­cord­ing to one re­port, vap­ing has soared, with 10% of US adults now us­ing e-cig­a­rettes. Un­doubt­edly, many of them are do­ing so in an ef­fort to quit to­bacco smok­ing.

Even chil­dren are get­ting in on the act and, ac­cord­ing to the Washington Post, it is es­ti­mated that more than 13% of high school pupils and nearly 5% of mid­dle school pupils also use e-cig­a­rettes.

Vap­ing is mar­keted as a safer al­ter­na­tive to smok­ing and many peo­ple be­lieve that it is harm­less. How­ever, you may be sur­prised to learn that a num­ber of in­sur­ance com­pa­nies still view vap­ing in the same light as they do smok­ing.

While in­sur­ers do not claim that vap­ing is as dam­ag­ing as smok­ing tra­di­tional cig­a­rettes, vapers will still be charged more.

City Press ap­proached Dis­cov­ery Life, BrightRock, Lib­erty, Stan­dard Bank In­sur­ance and bro­ker­age In­sur­ance Busters, all of which ver­i­fied that if you have life cover, in­sur­ers put the same load­ing on to the pre­mium as they would for a smoker, if you de­clare that you vape.

The same, but dif­fer­ent

“The most re­cent in­for­ma­tion I got from in­sur­ers was that they still did not have suf­fi­cient proof that vap­ing does not have a sim­i­lar ef­fect as smok­ing on clients’ health. There­fore, most still view it as smok­ing,” ex­plains Will Keevy, head of the in­sur­ance di­vi­sion of In­sur­ance Busters.

Dr Maritha van der Walt, chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer at Dis­cov­ery Life, says: “From an un­der­writ­ing and pric­ing per­spec­tive on life in­sur­ance, you are ei­ther a smoker or a non­smoker. Us­ing a va­por­iser [that is, vap­ing] is cer­tainly a higher risk than be­ing a non­smoker. Smokers are of­ten dual users, mean­ing that they smoke and vape.

“There are chal­lenges in be­ing able to ver­ify how much a per­son smokes; it is also not pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish on test­ing be­tween vap­ing and smok­ing. There­fore, smokers and vapers are re­garded as smokers, and it is un­likely that this un­der­writ­ing prac­tice will change soon.”

BrightRock’s un­der­writ­ers also ap­ply the smoker rates to users of e-cig­a­rettes.

“To date, there has been no study to in­di­cate any dif­fer­ent out­come in us­ing e-cig­a­rettes or to­bacco cig­a­rettes when it comes to the in­creased risk as­so­ci­ated with diseases re­lated to smok­ing. In fact, some in­sti­tu­tions view vap­ing as even more harm­ful than smok­ing, but this is still un­con­firmed,” says a spokesper­son from BrightRock.

Mean­while, Stan­dard Bank In­sur­ance ad­mits it does things slightly dif­fer­ently. It fo­cuses on the con­sump­tion of nico­tine, which, it says, is the com­po­nent that has had a quan­ti­fied ef­fect on mor­tal­ity.

“Clients who take up prod­ucts that have this kind of un­der­writ­ing are nor­mally taken through the ap­pro­pri­ate tests which de­ter­mine if there is nico­tine in their sys­tem,” says Felix Kagura, head of long-term in­sur­ance propo­si­tions at Stan­dard Bank.

Un­for­tu­nately for vapers, a num­ber of e-cig­a­rette brands con­tain nico­tine, but there are some re­ports claim­ing that cer­tain brands do not. So, perhaps there may be some vapers who use nico­tine-free brands that would go un­de­tected by Stan­dard Bank’s tests. Hence, they would not be deemed to be smokers by the bank’s un­der­writ­ers.

Ul­ti­mately, the jury is still out on whether vap­ing is bet­ter than smok­ing. This is prob­a­bly why in­sur­ers are hes­i­tant about mak­ing a dis­tinc­tion be­tween the two.

In a re­port re­leased last year, ti­tled Nico­tine With­out Smoke: To­bacco Harm Re­duc­tion, the UK-based Royal Col­lege of Physi­cians says that although it is im­pos­si­ble to pre­cisely quan­tify the long-term health risks as­so­ci­ated with e-cig­a­rettes, the avail­able data sug­gests that the risks are un­likely to ex­ceed 5% of those as­so­ci­ated with smoked to­bacco prod­ucts, and may well be sub­stan­tially lower than this fig­ure. But many still in­sist that vap­ing is as bad as smok­ing. Last year, a re­port in the UK’s In­de­pen­dent news­pa­per quoted re­searchers at the Euro­pean So­ci­ety of Car­di­ol­ogy Congress, which took place in Rome. They claimed that the av­er­age vap­ing ses­sion had a sim­i­lar ef­fect on the stiff­ness of the heart’s aorta (its main artery) as smok­ing a nor­mal cig­a­rette.

It’s best to de­clare that you vape

Should com­pa­nies and aca­demics even­tu­ally de­duce that vap­ing is safe, or safer than smok­ing, they may of­fer pre­mi­ums to smokers who have opted to vape.

But un­til then, it is best to de­clare to your in­surer that you are a vaper if you use e-cig­a­rettes.

If you do not de­clare it, your dread dis­ease claim or your fam­ily’s claim on your life in­sur­ance pol­icy may be re­pu­di­ated.

It is im­por­tant to read the fine print of your poli­cies, and if you are un­sure, find out if you are cov­ered even if you vape.

“BrightRock up­holds the right to ap­ply load­ings and deny the claims of pol­i­cy­hold­ers who do not dis­close any con­di­tions, hob­bies or habits that could af­fect their risk pro­files,” warns the in­surer.

And if you find that life cover has be­come un­af­ford­able be­cause of the ex­tra you are pay­ing in pre­mi­ums, con­sider giv­ing up smok­ing and vap­ing al­to­gether.

“The best ad­vice is not to smoke any sub­stance and not to vape,” rec­om­mends Van der Walt.

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