Electronic cigarettes have been hitting the health headlines over recent years, with increasing numbers of people trying them in a bid to either quit smoking or cut down their tobacco use. In 2010, only 8.2% of smokers had tried e-cigarettes, according to research for public health charity Action on Smoking and Health. By 2014, this figure had risen to 50.6%1.
However, despite the meteoric rise in usage, e-cigarettes won’t be licensed and regulated as smoking-cessation aids until 2016. Also, as these products are still relatively new, we can’t be sure how safe they are until they have been thoroughly assessed and monitored over time.
Conversations with clients
So what does this mean for advisers? Chances are your clients will have questions about the conflicting headlines and confusion surrounding e-cigarettes. Vitality stays on top of research ensuring that the most up-to-date, accurate findings are passed on to our members. Below, we outline some of the common misconceptions about e-cigarettes and explain exactly why we still class e-cigarette users as smokers. When talking with clients, it is important to highlight the significant financial savings and rewards that Vitality members can enjoy when they have been smoke-free for at least a year.
Myth: Nicotine is the harmful ingredient in cigarettes
Fact: Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are known to be harmful (these include cyanide, ammonia and carbon monoxide). At least 69 of these toxic ingredients can cause cancer2 but nicotine isn’t one of these toxins – nicotine is the highly addictive substance that makes people carry on smoking. Put simply, people smoke for the nicotine but die from the smoke. An e-cigarette provides the nicotine hit without the toxins.
Myth: E-Cigarettes are attracting non-smokers
Fact: E-cigarettes are almost exclusively used by smokers and ex-smokers. Only 14 in every 10,000 (0.14%) people who have never smoked use them, according to 2014 research by the Office of National Statistics3.
Myth: E-Cigarettes are a gateway to tobacco smoking
Fact: To date, there has been no firm evidence to back up the hypothesis that people – particularly teenagers and young adults – who use e-cigarettes will go on to use traditional tobacco. A study from the Harvard School of Public Health looked at 26,500 consumers across Europe. The study found that e-cigarette users were mostly one-time heavy smokers, aged between 15 and 24, who made the switch in order to quit tobacco4.
Myth: Using E-Cigarettes means lower life insurance costs than for smokers
Fact: Premiums aren’t lower, as people who use e-cigarettes are still likely to be users of other tobacco products (even if they’re in the process of cutting down) or may only recently have given up1. The negative health effects of smoking can take a long time to wear off and may never fully disappear. For example, it takes around five years for your risk of heart disease to fall to approximately half that of someone who still smokes5.
What’s more, even though e-cigarettes are considered much safer than tobacco products, the industry is still in its infancy and the long-term consequences on health are not currently known. That’s why e-cigarette users are classified as smokers when they take out cover with VitalityLife. To be classified as a non-smoker, clients must not have used any tobacco products or e-cigarettes for at least 12 months.
Myth: E-Cigarettes don’t help smokers give up
Fact: Actually, they do. People who use e-cigarettes daily for at least a month are six times more likely to quit tobacco than non-users, according to recent research from the University of Massachusetts6.
How you can help clients become smoke-free and save money
Giving up smoking is one of the most important steps that clients can take to protect their health. But while e-cigarettes may help them quit tobacco, users are still classified as smokers. So what’s the alternative? Vitality offers a popular smoking cessation programme, Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking, which has helped around 50,000 people each year to quit smoking. The Easyway course normally costs £260, but is free to all Vitality members.
Enjoy the cash benefits of being a non-smoker
There are countless health benefits to being a non-smoker. But it’s also a good idea to highlight the financial benefits that your clients can enjoy with Vitality when they quit the habit.
- Members who complete and pass their non-smoking test as part of their Vitality Healthcheck are eligible for cashback. For doing this and for completing their non-smokers declaration online, members will also earn 300 Vitality points.
- VitalityHealth individual members will get up to 15% of their annual premium as cashback – depending on their Vitality status – paid quarterly.
- Employees covered by VitalityHealth Business or Corporate Healthcare will receive a pound amount of up to £150 per annum paid quarterly for the principal member on the plan, depending on Vitality status and whether the company has selected Vitality Plus plan.
- VitalityLife members who disclose that they are non-smokers will benefit from lower insurance premiums from the outset.
- If a VitalityLife member successfully stops smoking or using tobacco products for more than 12 months (including the use of cigarettes, cigars, pipes, loose tobacco, any nicotine-replacement therapy and electronic cigarettes) then they can apply for new rates to reflect this. They will need to take a non-smokers test to prove their smoking status.
- Office for National Statistics, Use of e-cigarettes, and the relationship to smoking ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_386291.pdf