Vapers in the typically vaping friendly UK are facing absurd new rates due to their habit
The community of vapers in the UK has been growing faster than many of its international counterparts. CDC research indicates that in 2015, 3.7% of Americans vaped regularly. Alternatively, in 2014 the Annual Smokefree GB Survey found 2.9 million UK citizens were regular vapers. The UK government has since accepted and promoted the use of vaporizers as a smoking cessation tool, even including them in the annual “Stoptober” smoking cessation campaign.
However, a survey of UK vapers conducted by BoughtByMany.com found that 43% of the vapers surveyed, did not know that vaping raised the premiums on their insurance. Not only that, but 85% of the vapers felt that they should not be forced to pay the same premiums for their insurance as cigarette smokers.
Valid or Unjust?
Andy Morrison of the New Nicotine Alliance, a vaping advocacy group in the UK, says that “Vapers are being fleeced by insurance companies. It is ridiculous that insurers are still conflating combustible tobacco and vaping products despite all the evidence from bodies such as Public Health England that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.” Morrison feels that insurance companies are willfully taking advantage of the widespread public misunderstandings about vaping. Morrison believes they have no real reason to justify these increases. Many of these premiums and surcharges vapers face are often double of what a non-smoker is required to pay.
Insurers, on the other hand, say they have valid reasons for keeping insurance rates for vapers so high. A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers, Malcolm Tarling, says the situation is more complicated than that; “The negative health aspects of smoking are well documented and can stay with people for many years after they stop. Any insurer has to take people’s previous smoking habits into account when issuing cover.” Insurers argue that the long-term benefits or effects of vaping are still unknown, despite the growing amount of evidence that indicates that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Tarling’s spin on the subject is that insurers aren’t looking to take advantage of the situation, but there’s little reason to think that’s true.
A Negative Message
Professor Linda Bauld of Stirling University, in Stirling Scotland, thinks vapers ought to have the same rates as non-smokers, “It is just not fair. As well as being financially punitive to people who vape, it can also send negative messages to those who want to stop smoking.” 77% of vapers, in the survey conducted by BoughtByMany.com, say that vaping was a significant contributor to their quitting smoking, and 61% say that vaping had improved their health compared to when they were smoking. Bauld believes that by equating vaping with smoking, the health community is signaling to people that they mine as well not bother trying to reduce their risk. This is a precedent no one wants to set.
In the past few years, the UK government has really come to support vaping. Public Health England has famously endorsed vaping as a harm reduction and smoking cessation tool. The RCP, Royal College of Physicians in London, conducted a study that supported this, finding vaping to be 95% safer than smoking combustible cigarettes. They also concluded that vaping is not a gateway to other drugs or tobacco use and that it does not normalize smoking. In fact, vaping is a hugely influential tool against tobacco.
England and the UK have primarily supported vaping, which is why it is odd to see this happening there. These insurance hikes and other issues are rampant for vapers around the world. This proves why advocacy, on an individual level and by larger advocacy groups, is so vital for vapers. The public is in many ways biased against vaping because of the misinformation that has been spread by media and lobbyists around the world. Until that is able to change, and the public is ready to accept vaping’s value in harm reduction and smoking cessation, insurance companies and governments will continue to gouge the vaping public. The majority of people vaping are looking to improve their health, so we need to focus on supporting that cause instead of penalizing them for it.
Are you surprised that the UK is treating vapers this way, if not why? What’s the biggest thing we can do to help vaping gain acceptance? Do you think insurance companies should be allowed to charge vapers extra? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.