INSURANCE companies are still hitting e-cigarette users with a “smoker’s surcharge” despite mounting reports which claim vaping is far less dangerous than using tobacco, it’s claimed.
E-cigarettes are believed to be 95% less harmful than smoking, according to recent Government-backed health studies.
But as far as insurers are concerned, a drag on a cigarette is identical to a puff on a vaping device – and life insurance premiums are often twice as expensive as they are for non-smokers.
Linda Bauld, professor of health policy at Stirling University, believes insurers classing people who use e-cigarettes as being the same as smokers is “fundamentally wrong”.
“It is just not fair,” she told the Sunday Post. “As well as being financially punitive to people who vape, it can also send negative messages to those who want to stop smoking. It is not helpful.
“If vapers are regarded as being the same as tobacco smokers it could lead to an attitude of ‘why bother’ and before you know it they are back at the corner shop buying cigarettes.”
People who vape and don’t use combustible tobacco products should be treated the same as non-smokers by insurance companies, she added. It is estimated that about three million people in the UK are now using vaping devices.
Many don’t realise they will pay up to twice as much for life or critical illness insurance as non-smokers.
According to consumer website Gocompare.com, a 40-year-old smoker, for example, would typically pay more than £34 a month for £200,000 of level term life cover, compared to just over £16 a month for a non-smoker.
Andy Morrison, Scottish lead advocate for vaping organisation the New Nicotine Alliance, said the practice by insurance companies is a “rip-off”.
“Vapers are being fleeced by insurance companies,” he said.
“It is ridiculous that insurers are still conflating combustible tobacco and vaping products despite all the evidence from bodies such as Public Health England that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.
“They are using this as an excuse to keep premiums high for no good reason.”
However, most insurance companies are in no hurry to reduce premiums for vapers.
The benefits of e-cigarettes which contain nicotine versus people who smoke cigarettes has not been fully proven, they insist.
Malcolm Tarling, spokesman for the Association of British Insurers, said it was a complex issue which is being continually monitored.
“Insurers always look to take account of new medical knowledge and thinking and always look to offer cover rather than look for ways to turn people down,” he said.
“The negative health aspects of smoking are well documented and can stay with people for many years after they stop.
“Any insurer has to take people’s previous smoking habits into account when issuing cover.”