Vapers around globe face fight over “fundamentally wrong” insurance practices
British vapers facing sky-high premiums despite government and scientific agreement vaping is at least 95% safer than cigarettes.
The UK vaping community is growing rapidly and is even now comparable to the community in America. A 2015 report by the CDC indicated that in 2014, 3.7% of Americans regularly vaped or used vapor products. That’s compared to nearly 2% of UK citizens (2.9 million) according to the Annual Smokefree GB survey by Action on Smoking and Health.
A recent survey of over 500 UK vapers organized by BoughtByMany.com found that 43% of vapers didn’t know vaping increased their insurance premiums. The same survey also found that 85% of vapers don’t think that they should be forced to pay the same premiums as cigarette smokers for insurance.
Fair Concern or Simply Rip-Off?
“Vapers are being fleeced by insurance companies,” according to Andy Morrison of the New Nicotine Alliance, a UK-based vaping advocacy group. “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,” said Morrison. He feels the insurance companies are taking advantage of a cultural misunderstanding of vaping, adding “They are using this as an excuse to keep premiums high for no good reason,” often double what a non-smoker would pay.
Of course the insurance companies have their own reasons for choosing to keep vaper’s rates so high. According to Malcolm Tarling, a spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers, this is a very complicated situation. “The negative health aspects of smoking are well documented and can stay with people for many years after they stop,” adding “Any insurer has to take people’s previous smoking habits into account when issuing cover.” So even as the consensus grows for the substantial safety of vaping compared to smoking, insurance companies argue that the jury is still out on how much of a long-term difference there really is. In spite of how that all sounds, Tarling paints a more optimistic picture saying, “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.”
Sending Negative Messages
Linda Bauld, a professor of health policy at Stirling University in Stirling, Scotland, believes that vapers should have the same rates as non-smokers. “It is just not fair. As well as being financially punitive to people who vape, it can also send negative messages to those who want to stop smoking.” Indeed, according to the survey done by BoughtByMany.com, 77% of vapers say that vaping contributed in a major way to them quitting smoking. In fact, 61% say that they believe vaping instead of smoking has improved their health. Bauld does not think that this sets the right precedent, “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.”
The British government appears to coming around to the benefits of vaping. Last year, Public Health England endorsed vaping for harm reduction and as a smoking cessation tool, citing wide toxicology evidence. Around the same time, the Royal College of Physicians in London (RCP) released a study that suggested vaping is at least 95% safer than regular cigarettes. In addition, they also found that vaping is not a gateway to smoking, vaping does not normalize smoking, and in fact vaping is quite useful in quitting smoking.
Situations like these are happening all over the globe. Unfair insurance practices are just one of the reasons why advocacy of the many health benefits to vaping is so important. Until the public comes to understand and believe that vaping is really a safer alternative to smoking, insurance companies and government bodies will continue to take advantage of vapers. A majority of vapers just want to improve the health and wellbeing of themselves, their families, and their communities, so the focus ought to be on helping vapers, not working against them.
Check back soon for more on the continued effort to spread the truth and fight the misinformation about vaping.