Matthews IFA Ltd
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To 'e' or not to 'e'.......?

Life insurance premiums are often twice as expensive for smokers as non-smokers, according to MoneySupermarket, but what about people who use e-cigarettes? After all, they do not contain tobacco, which is what does the damage, and are not so much smoked as what is being termed ‘vaped’ – and some don’t even contain nicotine.

The jury’s still out about the health implications of e-cigarettes and whether they should be treated in the same way as traditional cigarettes.

From 2016, all nicotine-containing products – including e-cigarettes – will be regulated as medicines, after the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency warned that their quality ‘can vary considerably’.

While their use has grown rapidly – as many as 1.3 million people used them in 2013 – insurers are still working out their stance. For this reason it’s always worth checking the individual terms of your policy if you smoke e-cigarettes.

The Association of British Insurers said a few insurers are getting a sense of the way things are heading.

Linsey White, ABI spokeswoman said: 'Individuals should contact their insurer and are advised to always disclose the use of e-cigarettes and any kind of tobacco or nicotine product when taking out a policy.

‘If someone has not used tobacco in last 12 months, and only uses nicotine free e-cigarettes, they may be entitled to answer “No” to smoking questions, but this should always be discussed with their insurer.’

She added that it is also worth noting that the long term health implications of e cigarettes are as yet unknown.

A spokesperson for LV= said: that e-cigarettes are considered a nicotine replacement product, and as such imply that the user is likely to have used, or to resume using, traditional cigarettes. Therefore for life insurance applications, e-cigarette users are classed as smokers.

Aviva’s stance was similar. A spokesperson for Aviva said: ‘For health insurance, premiums are not based on smoker status, so we don’t ask customers any questions about whether they smoke or use e-cigarettes.

‘For life insurance applications, users of nicotine replacement products - including e-cigarettes containing nicotine - are classed as smokers.

‘When e-cigarettes were originally introduced they were marketed as smoking cessation aids and as such it would have been considered unlikely that anyone using them would not have also used tobacco products within the last 12 months (and thus been considered as a smoker). It now appears that they may also be used as a genuine alternative to smoking and it may be that we review our position in the future.

‘Occasionally we receive enquiries about users who claim only to use a nicotine-free inhaler. If someone has not used tobacco in last 12 months and only use nicotine free e-cigarettes then they are entitled to answer “No” to smoking questions and get non-smoker rates.’

Peter Hamilton, head of retail propositions at Zurich UK Life added: 'There's been a lot of debate around the industry about this but at the moment the benefits of e-cigarettes which contain nicotine versus people who smoke cigarettes has not been fully proven.

'Most of the users of e-cigarettes with nicotine, are smokers who are trying to quit. Although their success rate seems to be higher than those who try to quit using other types of nicotine replacement products, the vast majority still continue to smoke or revert back to smoking 'real' cigarettes.

'As the mortality rate for smokers doesn't really start to drop until they've given up for at least 12 months, we are treating someone using e-cigarettes with nicotine at present the same as a smoker because of the high chance of them relapsing as well as the unknown long-term impacts of use of e-cigarettes, for example in terms of the chemicals inhaled.

'For people who are using e-cigarettes that don't contain nicotine, then we'd treat them as non-smokers as long as they haven't smoked tobacco or used any form of nicotine product in the last 12 months. We'll continue to monitor the impact and the evidence. As further information becomes available, we may see greater refinement in pricing to allow for the difference between 'real' and e-cigarettes in the future.'

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