Electronic cigarettes, commonly known as e-cigs, are one of the fastest growing trends in the tobacco industry. While most e-cigarettes contain addictive nicotine and carcinogens such as formaldehyde, they are considered “safer” because they do not physically contain tobacco.
E-cigarettes are poised to outsell tobacco products within the decade, but they are still a relatively new product and there is not yet enough research behind them. We are still several years away from having scientific evidence that accurately compares the health effects of traditional cigarettes versus electronic cigarettes.
Because of the lack of scientific proof, the life insurance industry is hesitant in viewing e-cigarette users as less risky to insure than their cigarette-smoking counterparts.
E-Cigarettes: The Good and the Bad
The good thing is that along with the growing popularity of e-cigarettes, we are also seeing a decline in adult smokers. The bad thing is that we are starting to see many young non-smokers picking up e-cigarettes at an alarming rate. This activity among teens is referred to as vaping or “Juuling”.
E-cigarette use among high schoolers has increased 900 percent since 2011, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. In 2018, more than 3.6 million U.S. middle and high school students used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days.
Younger, developing brains may be more prone to addiction and one concern is that electronic cigarettes are creating a whole new generation of nicotine addicts. In December of 2018, the Surgeon General officially declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic in the United States.
Health Impact of Electronic Cigarettes
E-cigarettes can be used with non-nicotine products, such as marijuana, but the vast majority of e-cigarette products sold in stores contain nicotine. Nicotine is highly addictive and can have lasting damaging effects on adolescent brain development and developing fetuses.
The downside of electronic cigarettes*:
- Chronic nicotine exposure may lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes;
- Inhaled nicotine increases heart rate and blood pressure;
- Nicotine may lead to changes in the brain that increase risk of addiction to other drugs (especially in young people);
- Nicotine may impair prefrontal brain development in teens, leading to ADD and poor impulse control;
- Kid-appealing packaging of e-liquid (such as candy and fruit flavorings) has caused many cases of nicotine poisoning in children;
- Flavored e-cigarettes often contain diacetyl, which is associated with a lung disease that causes permanent damage to the bronchioles;
- Certain components of e-liquids (propylene glycol and glycerol) may decompose and transform into formaldehyde when heated by the vaporizer.
Yes, the use of electronic cigarettes is far less dangerous than using traditional cigarettes. But this does not mean there is evidence to show it does not affect your health and anything that affects your health will be looked at closely by the life insurance industry.
Life Insurance and Electronic Cigarettes
When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company evaluates you and puts you into a category based on your risk factors. The category you’re placed into is called a Risk Class. There are two categories of risk classes: tobacco and non-tobacco. The life insurance premiums for individuals with a tobacco risk class will be higher than a non-tobacco risk class.
Even though most insurance companies agree that vaping is probably less harmful than smoking, it’s worse than not smoking at all. In general, most insurance companies will put e-cigarette users in a smoker category.
|For Non-Tobacco Users||For Tobacco Users|
|Preferred Plus||Preferred Tobacco|
|Standard Plus||Standard Tobacco|
|Table Ratings (Substandard)|
Things the insurance company will want to know to determine an e-cigarette user’s risk class:
- Do you also use traditional cigarettes?
- If you quit using tobacco, how long have you been tobacco free?
- Did you admit e-cigarette use on your application?
- Did your medical exam results test positive or negative for nicotine?
» Calculate: Life insurance needs calculator
What if I am just using e-cigarettes to quit smoking and rarely use them?
If you have been using e-cigarettes to quit smoking and no longer smoke regular cigarettes and also rarely use e-cigarettes, disclose in your application that you seldom use them. If no traces of nicotine show up in your urine sample, there is a chance you would be qualified for non-smoker life insurance rates.
Electronic cigarettes have not been around long enough for in-depth research on the long-term effects and the life insurance industry rates the usage accordingly.
What if I quit smoking, including e-cigarettes, but already have a policy with smoker premiums?
If you have quit smoking altogether, including using e-cigarettes, but already have life insurance and are paying smoker rates, you should inform your insurance company. If you have been smoke-free for at least 12 months, there is a good chance your premium costs would decrease.
Your age does come into play when you reapply though so the sooner you quit the better your chances of cheaper life insurance. You could even try re-applying through an independent broker like Quotacy that works with multiple life insurance companies to see if you can find premiums cheaper than what you’re currently paying.
What if I just don’t disclose on my application that I sometimes use e-cigarettes?
If you state on your application that you do not use any tobacco or nicotine products but the life insurance company discovers through your records that you do use actually use e-cigarettes, they can penalize you in different ways.
They can lower your policy’s face amount (the death benefit your beneficiaries are to receive) to what your premiums would be paying for on a smoker-rated policy. They can increase your premiums. Or they can revoke your policy.
The fact that you misrepresented yourself will also be recorded in your Medical Information Bureau (MIB) file. The MIB exists to help insurance companies prevent fraud.
If you lie on your application but the insurance companies don’t catch you and they activate your policy, you’re not in the clear yet. Every policy has a contestability period (typically two years) and if you die within these two years the insurance company has the right to investigate the claim.
If they find out you lied, the insurance company could either lower the death benefit your beneficiaries receive or deny the claim altogether. It does not pay to try and fool the insurance company.
You lied on your application saying you never used any tobacco or nicotine product and were offered a 20-year $1,000,000 term policy for $53 per month. You die during the two-year contestability period and the insurance company investigates the claim. They discover you were actually a daily e-cigarette user. Since you misrepresented yourself, the insurance company is now only liable to pay your beneficiaries a $175,000 death benefit instead of $1,000,000 because that’s what the $53 per month smoker-rate would pay for.
Being honest on your application about your e-cigarette use is important because if Quotacy has all the facts we can go to the appropriate insurance company to make sure you get the best life insurance policy. When you apply through Quotacy, your agent reviews your case to make sure you’re matched with the insurance company that will give you the best rate.
» Compare: Term life insurance quotes
Even if you use electronic cigarettes, protecting your family with life insurance is an important part of any financial plan. No one ever anticipates needing to use life insurance, but the unexpected happens. Don’t wait until tomorrow.
*Information from Harvard Health Publishing article: E-cigarettes: Good news, bad news
About the writer
Writer, Editor, and Co-host of Quotacy's Q&A Fridays
Natasha is the content manager and editor for Quotacy. She has been in the life insurance industry since 2010 and has been making life insurance easier to understand with her writing since 2014. When not at work, she's probably studying and working toward her Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) designation while throwing a tennis ball for her pitbull mix, Emmett, or curled up on her couch watching Netflix. If it’s football season, the Packers game will be on. Connect with her on LinkedIn.