The use of electronic cigarettes has been booming in the UK for the past few years: almost 3 million former smokers have switched from tobacco products to vaping products. Even though several studies have concluded that e-cigarettes were less dangerous than traditional cigarettes – the Public Health England study for example, which was published in 2015 and concluded that e-cigarette was 95% less harmful than tobacco cigarettes -, British insurers do not share the same viewpoint.
In an article from the Sunday Post, we actually discover that smoking and vaping are considered similarly by insurers, while health risks linked to those two habits are quite different. British smokers as well as British vapers therefore have to pay a premium on top of their life insurance costs. Only non-smokers and non-vapers avoid paying the premium.
The consumer website Gocompare.com has compared life insurance costs for a 40 year old male: a smoker or a vaper will pay £34 per month compared with £16 for a non-smoker or non-vaper, more than a two-fold increase.
For Linda Bauld, a professor at the Stirling University, this is unfair for vapers, who, despite their attempt to stop smoking, are punished similarly to those who still smoke. She even reckons that this “financially punitive” system could lead former smokers to go back to smoking again. Andy Morrisson, the lead advocate for the New Nicotine Alliance fully shares those views and regards this practice as a “rip-off” of vapers, despite all the evidence that vaping is less harmful than smoking.
Malcolm Tourling, a smokesman for the Association of British insurers, presents a major argument against those accusations: for the insurers, even though vapers have stopped smoking, risks linked to tobacco use will continue to exist for years. A tobacco use background thus cannot be excluded from an insurance contract, similarly to a current tobacco use.