Why do insurers even care about vaping?

Disposable vape pen with refill pod in a hand.
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Since the introduction of e-cigarettes, many long-time and would-be smokers have traded in butts for vapes, believing them a healthier or harmless alternative.

Even though the Public Health Agency of Canada has only recorded 20 cases of vaping-related lung illness as of mid-2020, the government says it’s still not clear what the long-term effects might be.

Electronic cigarettes work by heating up a liquid that you inhale as a vapor — hence the nickname. Not all varieties of vape liquid or “juice” contain nicotine, but most do. Even some products marked as containing 0% nicotine have been found to contain nicotine.

The agency adds that while the chemicals used to flavour vape liquid are tested to be safe to eat, the same testing hasn’t been run to confirm they’re safe to breathe. And heating those products can create new chemicals, like formaldehydes.

They might also contain heavy metals like lead, nickel, tin, aluminum and various cancer-causing agents. Some defective vapes have even caused fires and explosions.

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How badly does vaping impact your insurance?

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Tobacco use has long been a red flag for medical underwriters. Until there’s more research on the effects of vaping, most insurers won’t make a distinction between vaping and smoking or between different kinds of vaping products.

To demonstrate the effect it can have on your life insurance policy, 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 Vancouver. By shopping around for the lowest price, we were able to track down a 20-year term with $500,000 in coverage for just $47.08 each month.

Add in nicotine? He’s now looking at $126.90 a month for the same protection. That’s a difference of $79.82 every month, which will be an extra $957.84 over the course of a year.

How to lower your premiums

Woman sitting at desk at home, looking at something on computer, wearing headphones.
Kinga / Shutterstock.com

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 nicotine use, but it won’t be as bad as if you’re a current user.

  • Lower your other risk factors. Think about different 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. Experts recommend you compare at least three insurance quotes before you settle on a policy.

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Sigrid Forberg Associate Editor

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

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