The policy of Pulse Life underwriting is to rate Life Applicants who vape as smokers. This policy is kept under review particularly in the light of the considerable media attention that vaping is attracting.
BBC 1’s Panorama programme of Monday 4th of September and BBC4’s Today’s Programme of Tuesday12th September have both dealt with the subject and Stuart McGurk’s excellent article published in the Financial Times Weekend Magazine of August 12/13th highlighted many extraordinary facts.
Did you know that the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham recently held Vapo Expo’s 8th industry expo for vaping. This is a reflection of the fact that vaping has gone “ from a niche pursuit designed to help people quit smoking to a $27Bn global industry”. Overall vape sales in the UK in the UK amounted to £1.3Bn in 2021.
The growth of vaping has gone hand in hand with the growth of disposable vapes which account for some 40% of the UK market in 2021. Disposables are available everywhere and are free of the tobacco industry’s licencing regulations.
The growth in vaping with disposables has seen a growth in the use of vaping by children. The charity Action on Smoking and Health has found that an astonishing 20.5% of children have tried vaping. This is surely the result of flavouring to disposables – the Unicorn Shake says that “you’ll get milky and creamy flavours on the inhale, followed by sweet strawberry and banana on the exhale”.
Vaping is now an international industry, with manufacturers in America, Malaysia, The Middle East, Italy and many other countries. And regulators around the world are getting increasingly interested in the whole subject.
Australia has gone further than most and has actually banned vaping unless through prescription.
The initial objective of vaping was simple. It was designed to help people stop smoking. This was and remains an incredibly important objective. It has been said that campaigns to stop people smoking have saved more lives than antibiotics!
But a lead concern that regulators have is with the marketing of vaping to children. Vapes contain nicotine and nicotine is powerfully addictive. BBC’s Panorama recently had a programme looking at this problem and they interviewed several teenagers who were finding it really difficult to quit vaping! The concern is that vaping is creating a new generation of nicotine addicts. So, we can expect a new raft of regulation aimed at controlling the way in which vaping is marketed to children and teenagers through colourful packaging and flavouring.
On BBC4’s Today programme of the 12th September Dr Caroline Johnson talked about the need for stronger regulation in the UK and highlighted the dangers to the environment resulting from the disposal of single use disposable vapes. But she also referred to the concerns that so little is known about the long term effect of vaping on health.
It is widely accepted that vaping is safer than smoking and that it is a very useful tool in helping people quit smoking. But The Panorama programme referred to the recent and new work being carried out by scientists at Birmingham University. Their work is not particularly encouraging as far as this issue is concerned. They have carried out work exposing cells from volunteers to smoke from vapes, and discovered that the ability of these cells to resist attacks from everyday bugs was reduced by 50%; I.e. the immune system was being adversely affected to a significant degree.
It is accepted that much work still needs to be done on this but perhaps one of the Birmingham scientists summed the view that is currently that of most Life underwriters when he said that it will take time to work out the long term effects but today “we know enough to be cautious”.
Most life insurers deem vaping to be tobacco use and individuals should declare this when applying. In the eyes of an insurance company nicotine is nicotine. It doesn’t matter where it comes from, it’s still bad for you. Vaping with 0% nicotine may be treated differently, but this varies from insurer to insurer.
In 2020, we discussed why insurance companies were being cautious in respect of vaping. This hasn’t changed too much, due to the lack of long term studies there will naturally be an element of suspicion for cautious underwriters.
Pulse specialises in providing life insurance for individuals who have struggled to obtain it in the usual market.
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