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Why do insurers even care about vaping?

Disposable vape pen with refill pod in a hand.
GrungeElfz / Shutterstock

While the American Lung Association says smoking has dropped by 68% among adults over the last several decades, many have just traded in their butts for vapes, believing them a healthier or harmless alternative.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees that vapes are safer than cigarettes, “safer” does not mean “safe.”

Electronic cigarettes work by heating up a liquid that you inhale as a vapor — hence the name. Not all varieties of vape liquid or “juice” contain nicotine, but 99% of all products sold in the U.S. do, according to the CDC.

Even some products marked as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine. They might also contain heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds and various cancer-causing agents. Some defective vapes have even caused fires and explosions.

As of February 2020, the CDC had recorded 2,807 hospitalized cases of serious lung injury associated with vaping products and 68 deaths.

In the end, insurance companies are unlikely to care about which vaping products you personally use and may consider you just as risky as a cigarette smoker.

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How badly does vaping impact your insurance?

Woman sitting near window squinting down looking at a piece of paper, upset.
tommaso79 / Shutterstock

Tobacco use has long been a red flag for medical underwriters. In much the same way, people who vape will find it harder to secure an affordable health insurance policy — though if you compare different providers, some may be more merciful.

The effect on life insurance can be even more severe. To demonstrate, we shopped for an affordable term life insurance policy using a popular quote-comparison site.

We put in the details of an otherwise perfectly healthy 40-year-old man living in Chicago. By shopping around for the lowest price, we were able to track down a 20-year term with $500,000 in coverage for just $32.18 each month.

Add in nicotine? He’s now looking at $140.97 a month for the same protection. That’s a difference of $108.79 every month, which will be an extra $1,305.48 over the course of a year.

What can you do?

Young couple looking down at calculator while managing finances at kitchen table.
fizkes / Shutterstock

If you’re thinking you can just withhold your habit on your application, keep in mind that many insurers monitor social media and use special investigation units to look into suspicious claims.

You could face a big bill, get your claim denied or lose your policy if it comes to light that you omitted important details.

Thankfully, you have plenty of other options to bring down your costs:

  • Quit vaping. Your best bet to get lower rates would be to quit smoking and vaping. Some insurers may still charge you a little more if you have a history of tobacco use, but it won’t be as bad as if you’re a current user.

  • Lower your other risk factors. If quitting is not in the cards, you’ll want to think about other ways to improve your overall health and lower your risk to the insurer. While you can’t do much about a family history of heart disease or cancer, you can always shed a few pounds, cut back on drinking or quit dangerous hobbies like skydiving or mountain climbing.

  • Shop around for a better rate. Don’t stick with the first rate you see, and don’t trust that the deal you picked years ago is still the best offer. The Insurance Information Institute recommends comparing three or more health insurance quotes and doing the same for life insurance before you settle on a policy.


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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

Sigrid’s is Moneywise.com's associate editor, and she has also worked as a reporter and staff writer on the Moneywise team.


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