Switched to vaping? Find out if your life insurer will cut your premium
With stark statistics revealing smoking kills one in every two lifelong addicts, it’s no wonder many are turning to a less harmful alternative.
E-cigarettes were first introduced to Europe in 2006 and they are considered 95% less damaging than cigarettes, according to Public Health England (PHE).
This is because the vast majority of the health-harming toxins in cigarettes aren’t caused by nicotine, but by the thousands of chemicals contained in burnt tobacco. E-cigarettes don’t burn tobacco and don’t produce smoke. As such, more than a million people have opted for e-cigarettes as a means to quit.
But while they don’t burn tobacco, some of the thousands of e-cigarettes available on the high street and online do contain nicotine and this is the main reason why you may or may not see a discount on your life insurance premium after stubbing out cigarettes for good.
The way e-cigarettes are treated for life insurance purposes varies from insurer to insurer. Some treat all vaping (even if they contain no nicotine at all) as smoking while some insurers give non-smoker rates to those who use nicotine-free e-cigarettes.
This means it’s important to check exactly what’s in your e-cigarette and if it contains the addictive nicotine, it may be worth switching to a nicotine-free alternative to benefit from cheaper non-smoker rates on your life insurance policy.
Alternatively, if you use a nicotine-free e-cigarette but your life insurer treats all vaping as smoking and therefore applies smokers’ rates, again it may be worth getting a new life insurance quote from another provider that distinguishes between the two.
There don’t tend to be penalties for switching insurer but if you do move firm it’s important to compare all the details of what’s covered so you’re not swapping to an inferior policy just to save money.
How life insurers treat vaping
We contacted nine major life insurers. The following companies consider the use of all e-cigarettes, even if they do not contain nicotine, as smoking. Here’s what they told us:
Beaglestreet: “We define a smoker as someone who has smoked or used nicotine replacement products, including e-cigarettes, in the last 12 months, and a non-smoker as someone who has smoked nothing and used no nicotine replacement products for more than 12 months. We do not currently differentiate between vaping and smoking conventional cigarettes.”
L&G: “If you’ve smoked any cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, used e-cigarettes (whether or not they contain nicotine), or nicotine replacements at all in the last 12 months you need to answer ‘yes’ to the smoking question.”
LV: “Someone is classified as a smoker if they have used any tobacco products including cigarettes, cigars or nicotine replacement products within the last 12 months. E-cigarette users are classified as smokers so until they have stopped using e-cigarettes for at least 12 months we will not be able to offer non-smoker rates and the price will not reduce.”
Royal London: “The questions we ask on our application form are: Have you smoked or used any tobacco, nicotine replacement products or e-cigarettes in the last 12 months? If the applicant answers yes to these questions we will apply smoker rates.”
Vitality: “We are always looking at ways to help make people healthier and enhance and protect their lives, and although we do not encourage vaping at this stage, we are considering ways in which we could treat vaping differently from smoking in the future.”
The insurers below state that the use of nicotine-free e-cigarettes is not considered as smoking so users will receive non-smoker rates on life insurance policies:
Aegon: “You’re considered a smoker if you have used any nicotine based products in the 12 months prior to application.”
AIG: “AIG would classify someone as a smoker if they have used any products containing nicotine within the last 12 months, including nicotine replacement products. If someone uses a nicotine-free e-vape and has done for the last 12 months, or smokes less than 5 cigars a year, AIG treats them as a non-smoker.”
Aviva: “Customers only need to tell us about electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine. Therefore e-cigarettes that don’t contain nicotine don’t affect the premium and assuming the customer hasn’t consumed tobacco, nicotine, etc. within the last 12 months, we wouldn’t consider them a current smoker.”
Zurich declined to comment or provide information on how it treats the use of vaping for policies.
However, information on its site states that smoking refers to all the following nicotine products:
- Other tobacco products
- E-cigarettes or other products containing nicotine
- Nicotine replacement products
How much could this cost you?
Victoria Slade, independent protection expert at Drewberry Insurance, says insurers tend to hike premiums on life insurance contracts if you use e-cigarettes or nicotine gum.
“UK insurers tend to treat vaping in exactly the same way as smoking which means they still load the premiums up to 100% or more,” she says.
“Despite PHE stating that e-cigarettes are 95% less harmful to health than normal cigarettes, insurers have yet to be moved, presumably because so little data exists as to the long-term health implications of either e-cigarettes or vaping.
“Insurers still tend to look on the practice as a ‘crutch’ used by addicts. This is understandable as a large number of vape users will inevitably drift back to smoking cigarettes once more.”
She says that life insurance premiums are generally twice as high for smokers (rising even higher if you’re still smoking in your 40s) but for the half a million Brits who claim to stub out the habit for good, premiums are reduced.
You’ll usually have to sign a non-smoker declaration and take a nicotine test administered by a doctor once you ask for your insurance to be re-rated.