Is vaping really any healthier for you?
Initially purported to be the healthier alternative to tobacco smoking, vaping is now under the spotlight for its true cost to your health. Read on to find out what this means for your risk cover, and how to manage it.
Vaping in the headlines
In September 2019, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the US released a media statement, which included startling stats, showing probable and confirmed links between 380 cases of a mysterious respiratory condition and vaping. To add, six deaths in the US have been linked to vaping – though investigations are still underway to determine whether there’s a direct link to the smoking alternative. The statistics don’t end there: figures gathered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US since 2010 show the increased risk for epileptic seizures among vapers with the pre-existing condition.
What’s really in vaping e-liquid?
Good question. While vaping has shot to popularity thanks to being a supposed healthy alternative to tobacco smoking, the ingredients of various e-juice would suggest otherwise. “Some preliminary investigations into the deaths reported by the CDC indicated that THC (tetra hydrocannibol) was found in the e-liquid,” says Dr Helen Weber, medical advisor at Sanlam. “Some vaping solutions do contain nicotine, which raises blood pressure and heart rate,” she says. This could potentially be related to epileptic seizures, but there’s not enough evidence at this point. Among these, e-cigarettes could also contain carcinogen formaldehyde, which can increase a vaper’s cancer risk, and possible traces of silicone in e-liquid can increase the risk for lung disease.
I’m a vaper. How do I manage my risk?
“Vapers are classified as smokers and are usually risk rated the same way,” says Dr Weber. “A vaper/ smoker is deemed more at risk of prolonged infection, so sickness cover is highly advisable.” This means it is your responsibility to declare your status as a vaper to prospective insurers, including how often you vape, how much of it is used, and whether you consume anything else while vaping, for example, alcohol.
In conjunction with clinical evidence and national and international claims experience, insurers and reinsurers like Sanlam apply a scientific, rational and fair approach in underwriting substance use, including vaping. This includes:
- Frequency of use,
- History of any addiction and treatment thereof
- Use of a single substance in combination with other substances
- A person’s age
- The financial services products being applied for
- Existing medical conditions that may impact the use of the substance.
“Any claim will be assessed on its own merits and general exclusions on substance use will still apply to your specific plan,” says Dr Weber.
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The way forward
“Right now, there’s lots of grey area,” says Dr Weber. “We are still gathering scientific evidence about the long-term side effects of vaping, but we await the final outcome of these cases in the US to determine whether an exact causal relationship to vaping could be established.”
“We have a ‘philosophy’ about smoking e-cigarettes that we review and adapt over time as new evidence comes to the fore,” she adds. “This allows us to remain objective and open to new research. These deaths and respiratory complaints need to be monitored and, should a direct scientific link be proven, we will adjust our approach in terms of risk rating these clients accordingly.”
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