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Insurance Companies Hitting Vapers With ‘Smoker’s Surcharge’ For Using E-Cigs

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Former smokers who have ditched cigarettes for a vaping device in the United Kingdom are criticizing insurance companies for still treating them as tobacco users.

The Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA), the leading advocacy group for vapers in the U.K., sent a letter the Association of British Insurers (ABI) asking they adjust the price of policies to reflect the substantially different health impacts of cigarettes and vapor products. The letter, addressed to ABI CEO Paul Evans, argues the high policy rates risk discouraging smokers from trying the devices to quit, reports Vaping Post.

Insurance companies are hitting vapers with what amounts to a “smoker’s surcharge,” ignoring the growing body of scientific evidence showing major improvements in the health of people only using the devices, the trade association claims.

“There is no rational justification for treating vapers like smokers for insurance purposes, and many of the concerns expressed by the insurance industry are without foundation,” representatives from IBVTA said in the letter to Evans. “By treating vapers like smokers, all the insurance industry is doing is disincentivizing a smoker from switching to vaping.”

The government in England recently endorsed e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking, even advocating against vaping bans in offices and public spaces. The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, acknowledging the devices are a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate second hand risks to the public.

Major health groups in England, like the Royal College of Physicians, agree that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. They also recommend vaping to patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products. Public Health England says vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke.

The U.K.’s largest lung charity is also softening its language on vaping and backing the devices for smokers. Sarah Macfadyen, the policy and public affairs manager at the British Lung Foundation, said Aug. 16 that vaping is helpful to reduce smoking rates and for diminishing the chances of lung cancer. The group wants to clear up misconceptions about the devices that may keep smokers from transitioning to e-cigarettes.

Officials at the British Lung Foundation continue to advise non-smokers against using vaping devices, but acknowledge that research shows they are safer than traditional cigarettes. Macfadyen said “vaping is a considerably better option” over smoking and policy makers must “use all the tools at our disposal” to help save lives.

Representatives for IBVTA say the insurers need to embrace the prevailing science around vaping by encouraging smokers to try the devices through lower pricing.

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