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Published On: Thu, May 1st, 2014

UK Health Insurance: The Domino Effect of Electric Cigarettes

A moderate smoke, even a “ten-a-day” smoker would be better off by nearly £1,000 per year by switching to an e-cigarette. Furthermore, your health profile will potentially take a turn for the better by making the switch from real tobacco to an electronic version of a cigarette. Some health insurers are even beginning to offer significant reductions in their premiums by agreeing to re-classify people who make this move to e-cigarettes as “non-smokers”.

Two brands of e-cigs with the corresponding spare battery.  Equazcion at the wikipedia project

Two brands of e-cigs with the corresponding spare battery.
Equazcion at the wikipedia project

Rapid rise

There has been a rapid rise in the number of people who are taking up electronic cigarettes as an alternative to traditional tobacco cigarettes. This has taken many health authorities by surprise and is making waves in the insurance markets, with companies deciding whether to re-assess the risk-profile of people who are currently classified as smokers for insurance purposes.

There are already well over a million users of electronic cigarettes in the UK, and the device, which involves inhaling small quantities of vaporised nicotine, is growing so popular that it is likely to prompt a re-think for a number of private insurance companies, who will no doubt require their underwriters to take a look at their position and who they evaluate people who are using E-cigarettes.

Gone in a puff of smoke

It is important to remember that whilst early indications may well suggest that E-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than their tobacco-based counterparts, the fact that someone was previously a smoker and has made the switch, doesn’t mean that the direct health effects of smoking have vanished overnight in a puff of vaporised smoke.

The other factor that could easily dissuade insurance underwriters from adjusting their rates is that some insurers flag smoking as an undesirable underwriting variable, not simply because of the inherent risks associated with smoking anyway, but also it alerts them to the possibility that you may have other risk-taking behaviours that could increase their chances of paying out on your life insurance.

More research

The Lancet published the results of a study of around 650 smokers that showed that E-cigarettes were equally as effective in helping people to quit smoking as nicotine patches, although the average quitting rate is still barely above 6%, so these devices have not been shown as particularly powerful allies in getting people to quit their smoking habit altogether.

The other concern is that widespread use of E-cigarettes could have the undesirable effect of normalising smoking, prompting calls for regulation to be introduced in order to restrict sales to people over 18 years of age.

E-cigarettes are certainly not a panacea and there is a reasonable percentage of people who try them and then quit, so more research needs to be done before we fully understand the role that they play and how significant their benefits are from a health and life insurance point of view.

If their benefits become more of a proven case, then it could certainly have a domino effect and improve rates for health insurance subscribers who have been tobacco smokers but subsequently made the switch to E-cigarettes.

Guest Author :

Albert Johnson researches medical trends and innovations. When not studying statistics and technological advances, he often writes about how the emerging research and industry affects the everyday person.

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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