E-Cigs and Health Insurance: Are Vapers Classified as Smokers?

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In 2014, a survey by Munich American Reassurance Company reported an unsurprising trend: 9 out of ten people who sell insurance think e-cigarette users should pay more for their health insurance. Of course, that would mean higher profits for them, but do vapers really cost insurance companies more money? Even if they did, should vapers continue to be punished with high premiums even after they have given up tobacco?

Smoking vs. Vaping: The Cost of Health Insurance

Smoking vs. Vaping: The Cost of Health Insurance

Unlike the past when medical doctors endorsed their favorite brand of cigarettes in advertisements, the secret is out that smoking is bad for you. It’s become common knowledge that smokers have a much higher risk of cancers, heart disease, lung problems and other health issues, insurance carries have been legally allowed to charge smokers higher monthly premiums to offset the expected higher costs of care.

In the U.S., the Affordable Care Act lets insurers charge smokers up to 50% more than nonsmokers for premiums. This ruling allows health insurance companies can set their own policies for vapers. This loophole is created because e-cigs aren’t legally considered tobacco products, nor tobacco cessation devices. Some insurance companies subject new customers to mouth swabs or urine tests to detect the presence of nicotine in their bodies, so vapers who use nicotine will obviously test positive and be classified as smokers. Some companies now consider vapers in a category of their own, so e-cig users pay less than smokers but more than non-vapers.

Vaping Laws Vary From State to State

Vaping Laws Vary From State to State

Individual state laws have a lot to do with whether or not vapers are considered smokers. Federal regulations for e-cigs are still pending, but local governments have taken action. For example, a bill that legally classifies e-cigs as tobacco products in California was passed in 2016. Activists groups like CASAA are leading the fight against such legislation. Ultimately, insurers will still have the final say in how much vapers pay for their premiums.

Related: The Role of Advocacy Groups in the Vaping Industry

Although research on the long-term benefits of switching from tobacco to e-cigs is still in its infancy, nearly a decade’s worth of studies on e-cigs have concluded they do not carry the same risks as smoking and can in fact help people quit tobacco for good. Most people who pick up e-cigs are smokers who want to stop smoking. Rather than punish them for past actions, insurance companies should give vapers a break for trying to become healthier.

Related: Vaping vs. Smoking: The Price of Healthcare