If you’re trying to give up smoking this Stoptober, you might be ‘vaping’ – using electronic cigarettes – to help you quit.
A word of warning though: while e-cigarettes may be much less harmful to your health than tobacco (according to Public Health England), using them WON’T result in cheaper life or critical illness insurance.
These polices are always more expensive for smokers. And, it turns out, for those who ‘vape’ as well.
The same applies if you’re using nicotine replacement patches – you won’t get cheaper premiums until you’ve stopped smoking for a year and have stopped ingesting nicotine.
Here we explain exactly what vaping is, the impact it could have on your finances, and what it takes for an ex-smoker to cut their insurance costs.
What is vaping?
Vaping is basically smoking, but using an e-cigarette rather than a real one.
When you ‘vape’, you suck in through the mouthpiece of an e-cigarette and inhale a nicotine vapour, which you then exhale in the same way you would the smoke from a tobacco cigarette.
Around 2.6m people in the UK are thought to use e-cigarettes.
What are the rules about where I can vape?
Even though e-cigarettes are supposedly safer than normal cigarettes, there are plenty of places they are banned including big name chains such as Starbucks, KFC and All Bar One.
This summer, Southern Rail banned vaping on its trains and platforms, joining Virgin, Cross Country, Transport for London and Northern Rail.
You also can’t vape in many sport stadiums, including the grounds of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.
If I give up smoking and start vaping, will I get lower quotes for life insurance/critical illness?
Smokers usually pay more for protection insurance products such as life cover, critical illness insurance and income protection because of the health risks associated with smoking.
Unfortunately, you won’t benefit from lower quotes if you vape rather than smoke, because most e-cigarettes still have nicotine in them – and it’s the presence of nicotine in your system that triggers the higher premiums.
How come vapers get penalised as if they were smokers when it’s tobacco that causes health problems?
If your records show the presence of nicotine in your system, there will be no way to determine how it got there. So the insurer will assume it got there because of smoking
Right – the complicated bit…
When you buy critical illness cover or life insurance, you’ll be asked whether or not you’re a smoker – and the insurance company will take you at your word.
But if you go on to make a claim on your policy, the insurer may well ask for your medical records from your doctor.
If your records show the presence of nicotine in your system, there will be no way to determine how it got there. So the insurer will assume it got there because of smoking.
Otherwise, they say, active smokers might claim they only vaped or used nicotine patches, just to get lower premiums.
A spokesman for LV= said: “On application forms we state that we reserve the right to check medical records so it is important that what people tell us matches what they've told their doctor.”
Potential risks of vaping
In addition to the nicotine issue, it’s possible the e-cigarettes might carry an as yet unidentified health threat.
Tom Conner, spokesman for brokers Drewberry Insurance said: “Insurers are taking a conservative stance and don’t offer discounts for e-cigarette users. We are not aware of any insurers who make any differentiation in their premiums for e-cigarettes.
“This is understandable given there is uncertainty about the safety of some of the chemicals used in e-cigarettes and these are still a relatively recent development. The only advice we can give to those who want cheaper insurance is to give up altogether.”
How long do I have to give up e-cigarettes for before I can call myself a non-smoker?
Insurers will usually only class you as a non-smoker if you have been nicotine-free for 12 months. That means you can’t have touched an e-cigarette for a year.
A spokesman for L&G said: “There has to be a timeline set somewhere considering the chances of someone taking up smoking again, so 12 months is an appropriate place for someone to truly be a non-smoker.”
Kevin Carr, protection specialist at Kevin Carr Consulting, said that some insurers insist you haven’t smoked for several years rather than just 12 months before they will classify you as a non-smoker for insurance purposes.
He said: “Some insurers, particularly the ones offering very low cost cover, insist you’ve been a non-smoker for five years rather than just a year, so check before you sign up.”
If I’ve never smoked but start vaping anyway, how will that affect insurance prices?
According to insurer LV=, if you’re looking to take out a protection policy and use an e-cigarette you would be classified as a smoker, as you’d be asked whether you’d used nicotine-based products in the last 12 months.
Similarly, Aviva said that smoker rates would be applied to anyone using e-cigarettes.
A spokesman for the insurer said: “They are still largely used as aids to stop smoking and as such it would be unlikely that anyone using them would not have also used tobacco products within the last 12 months or in addition to smoking, where lighting up is prohibited.
“While e-cigarette use might be less risky than smoking this is unproven and, in any case, the use of e-cigarettes by never-smokers or long term non-smokers is still considered to be very small.”
However, L&G said that if you’ve never smoked and then started vaping once you have a policy, premiums WON’T rise. A spokesman for L&G said: “It won’t affect your policy, provided you started vaping after you took it out.”
What’s the situation with other aids aimed at people giving up smoking, such as nicotine patches, or nicotine-free e-cigarettes?
Using nicotine patches also counts as smoking from an insurance perspective. That’s because, as with electronic cigarettes, they deliver nicotine into your body.
A number of e-cigarettes state they do not contain nicotine, but even if you use one that doesn’t, you’re still likely to face higher premiums.
Tom Conner said, “Using an e-cigarette, whether it contains nicotine or not, suggests that someone might still have a psychological attachment to smoking. Insurers would tend to believe that someone may smoke nicotine-free on occasion but could also be still smoking either real cigarettes or e-cigarettes containing nicotine as well.
“So far, there is still some confusion as to whether these nicotine free e-cigarettes may contain some potentially harmful chemicals and so insurers are erring on the side of caution. Our guidance, at least for the time being, would be for cheaper premiums it is best to avoid smoking full stop.”
Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.