Vaping, Life Insurance, and Health Insurance

It’s been standard for decades: Smokers pay a higher rate for health insurance and life insurance because on average they incur more health expenses and have a higher mortality rate. And in many cases, insurance companies are treating vapers as smokers.

This is a big mess. A lot of cities and states and even some nations consider vaping to be the equivalent of smoking cigarettes and subject it to the same bans and restrictions. Many workplaces also treat vapers the same way as they do smokers.


The World of Insurance

In the insurance world, vaping is still an unknown, simply because it’s still a pretty new phenomenon and there’s little information on any negative impact vaping may have on lifespan and health issues. (Hint: It’s probably a whole lot less than the impact of smoking tobacco!) So until they know, or until vapers make a big enough stink about it, most insurance companies will continue to lump smokers and vapers together when setting insurance rates.

That’s wrong. You know it. I know it. They know it too but don’t want to admit it, because it’s easier to pretend it’s the same and make more money from the higher “smoker” premiums that vapers pay.

Honestly, the insurance companies don’t want to be scammed by smokers claiming to just vape, and that’s a legitimate concern for them. As smokers get older, for instance, life insurance can cost up to six times as much as non-smokers pay. Insurance companies are trying to protect themselves just as you, the non-smoking vaper are.

Nicotine ≠ Smoking

One of the issues is that life and health insurance companies have an easy way to test for smoking. Pee in a cup or let them draw some blood, have it analyzed, and if the test results show more than the smallest trace of nicotine (which could come from second-hand smoke), they classify you as a smoker.

Why? Because it’s easier. When you get a new job, you usually have to pass a drug screening, and they can test for nicotine at the same time. Unless your employer is paying the entire cost of your insurance, it doesn’t matter to them if you’re paying more because you’re classified as a smoker. (In general, those who vape without nicotine are off the hook.)

Another aspect of the problem is that because they test for nicotine instead of tobacco, people using nicotine gum or a patch will also show up as smokers. What the insurance industry needs is a test for tobacco use that doesn’t assume all nicotine comes from smoking.

It’s also standard in the industry to not consider a former smoker a non-smoker until they have been off tobacco for at least a year, and in some cases, former smokers will not receive the best insurance rates until they have been smoke-free for 3-5 years.

Fighting Back

If you are legitimately a non-smoker (most insurance companies require you to be smoke-free for at least one year) and vape with nicotine, you need to get together with co-workers in the same situation and draft a proposal to management, especially the HR department, asking for an end to the discriminatory treatment of those who vape being treated as smokers as far as insurance rates are concerned.

It won’t be easy because the FDA considers vaping the same as tobacco use, but we’re not looking for easy – we’re looking for fair. (The American Cancer Society is much more realistic in its assertion that anything that gets smokers off tobacco improves health and mortality over time.)

It will be up to management to decide what to do about it, whether to seek out an insurance company that distinguishes between vapers and smokers, put pressure on their existing insurance company to treat vapers fairly, or just ignore the vapers and hope it all goes away.

Also bear in mind that if you smoke and vape, you will be considered a smoker, so dual-use won’t save you any money on insurance.

Going It Alone

If you’re self-employed or unemployed, take the time to research your options. Look long and hard for an insurer that will accept you as a non-smoker if you’ve been off tobacco for at least a year. That will save you a lot of money on insurance premiums.

You Have Already Made a Choice for Better Health

Seriously, don’t let an insurance company cheat you with smoker rates if you’ve legitimately given up tobacco. You’ve made a choice for a healthier lifestyle, and if they don’t want to recognize and support that, find an insurer who will.

Whether the insurance companies recognize it or not, anyone who quits tobacco has made a choice for better health. Whether you go cold turkey, use nicotine gum or a patch, or choose to vape, you have made what is probably the most important health decision of your life.

All we ask is that insurers recognize that reality and stop treating former smokers who vape as though they are smokers.

Further Reading

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