Global reinsurers warn life insurers about potential risk of vaping following US epidemic
Three big reinsurers have updated their underwriting and pricing guidance on vaping in the past three months, Reuters has reported.
Hannover Re, which originally advised life insurers to treat vapers like smokers, has suggested that they be extra cautious about insuring people aged under 25 following a spate of e-cigarette related deaths in the US - a total that has reached 47.
SCOR, in a paper this October, warned of the toxic effects of nicotine, recommending that life insurers treat vaping like smoking, with exclusions for individuals who use vaping products which are considered by US authorities to be particularly harmful - for example, those containing THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).
Swiss Re meanwhile warned that younger non-smokers are picking up e-cigarettes at an ‘alarming rate', therefore creating a gateway to nicotine addiction.
However, while suggesting vapers should be classed as closer to smokers than non-smokers, Swiss Re did concede in its report that it is probably ‘less harmful than smoking'.
Partner Re Life and Health said more research on long-term effects was needed before vapers start being treated any differently to smokers, while Munich Re and Gen Re said they were monitoring recent developments in EVALI (e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury).
According to Reuters, 12 of the 13 life insurers contacted in Europe, South Africa and US said they already treated vaping like smoking.
Most have taken this stance for years, but a handful said they had changed their approach recently. US insurer Prudential Financial started treating vapers as smokers in October, while the Irish subsidiaries of Aviva and Zurich switched in the past year, Reuters said.
Justin Harper, head of protection marketing at LV=, said: "There is still little data on the long-term effects of vaping, especially when compared to the long-term impact of smoking. However, emerging evidence suggests that vaping damages the lungs changing their structure which creates an inflammatory response that can lead to diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
"We consider those who vape as smokers. Our current stance is to charge smoker rates for anyone who disclosed using a nicotine replacement product within the last 12 months when completing their application form, and we consider the use of e-cigarettes and vaping as a nicotine replacement product.
"Traditionally the industry has tended to apply smoker rates for someone using a nicotine replacement product within the last 12 months because of a greater chance those customers will restart smoking."
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