December 8th 2016

A question of life insurance: Is vaping the same as smoking?

With an estimated 2.6 million active e-cigarette users across the UK, vaping is a popular and widely accepted alternative to smoking. Battery powered e-cigarettes use a heating element that turns liquid nicotine into a cloud of vapour to be inhaled, often with flavourings. So is it any better for your health than smoking?

Reports are conflicting, as the products have only been around for roughly the last decade and therefore research on their long-term health impact is limited. A review carried out in 2015 by UK Government organisation Public Health England found e-cigarettes to be 95% less harmful than tobacco. Although they do contain nicotine, they omit the other dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes. The consensus seems to be that vaping is better for your health than traditional cigarettes if you already smoke – it has even been claimed that using them can dramatically improve people’s chance of quitting smoking. But the press has not all been positive.

Researchers at the Desert Research Institute in Nevada recently found that smoking flavoured e-cigarettes can produce “unacceptably dangerous” levels of formaldehyde and other carcinogenic compounds. Professor Andrey Khylstov, said: “How these flavouring compounds in e-cigarette liquids affect the chemical composition and toxicity of the vapour that e-cigarettes produce is practically unknown.”

A recent study found that e-cigarettes affect the same blood vessel in your heart as smoking regular cigarettes, whilst another found vapour from e-cigarettes can damage or kill human cells. What’s more, a US study suggests that teenagers who regularly vape are more likely to take up smoking – and not just that, but are more likely to develop a heavy cigarette habit.

So how do insurers approach e-cigarette users? Insurers are reluctant to treat vaping any differently to smoking. This is down to lack of research available on whether they have less impact on life expectancy than regular cigarettes, as well as it being hard to prove which products nicotine intake has come from.

Your life insurance policy application may well ask you if you have used any “tobacco products” in the last 12 months and, whether you smoke or use e-cigarettes, answering ‘yes’ could as much as double your premium. Whilst it may be tempting to fib on your form, insurers may turn down claims if they find evidence of a smoking-related disease. Insurers tend to class you as a smoker whether you have a 20-a-day habit or label yourself an occasional or social smoker.

The silver lining? Whilst smokers may pay more for life insurance, critical illness and income protection products, when it comes to buying an annuity on retirement they can often get bigger payments each year.

For a free review of your life insurance, contact the experts at Hine Financial Services on 0161 438 0000.

Related stories