Personal Finance

Why your vaping habit could raise your life insurance costs

Key Points
  • The long-term effects of vaping are uncertain, but odds are the activity won't work in your favor when you buy coverage.
  • Nearly every major life insurance company classifies e-cigarette users as smokers when determining rates, according to Policygenius.
  • Prudential Financial recently increased its life insurance rates for vapers to match those of smokers.
A woman uses her vaping device in Harmony, Pa.
Keith Srakocic | AP

While the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, there's little doubt that vaping won't go in your favor when it comes to life insurance.

The vaping-related illness outbreak reached more 1,888 probable cases with 37 fatalities as of Oct. 29, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's still unclear what is making people sick.

Nearly 9 of 10 patients with lung problems said they vaped products containing THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to the CDC's analysis of 867 people with lung problems associated with e-cigarette use.

Life insurance companies have long used smoking as a factor to determine coverage, said Jack Dolan, vice president of Public Affairs at the American Council of Life Insurers.

"It is not surprising that the use of any product with nicotine would raise a red flag for a life insurance company," Dolan said in a statement to CNBC. "But exactly how an individual company will treat an application for a person who uses e-cigarettes can vary from company to company."

Premium pricing

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Companies typically put customers in various classes when determining premiums, each of which have different rates: preferred plus, preferred standard, plus standard, and substandard. These are ranked from most to least healthy.

Although terms may vary slightly, the average monthly premium for a 35-year-old male classified as "preferred tobacco" — healthy, but a smoker— with a $500,000, 20-year term life insurance policy is $108.72, according to Policygenius.

If that applicant had a preferred nontobacco classification — a healthy nonsmoker, that is — he would pay just $31.72 per month.

In October, Prudential Financial increased its life insurance rates for e-cigarette users to match those of smokers.

People who vape will be classified as smokers, who are usually charged higher rates than nonsmokers, the company said.

"Increased attention on vaping over the past few months and linkages to a few deaths and multiple illnesses, have resulted in warnings from the FDA, federal government and some states banning the use of flavored e-cigarettes," the Prudential statement said.

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Nearly every major life insurance company classifies vapers as smokers when determining rates, according to Policygenius, because its long-term effects are still undetermined.

That's not likely to change anytime soon.

"Companies started to distinguish between smokers and nonsmokers when they had hard data on how much mortality there is for smokers versus nonsmokers," said Allen Klein, principal and consulting actuary at Milliman.

Disclosing nicotine use

If you smoke or vape, it's important to disclose this to your insurance broker, said Nicholas Mancuso, manager of the disability and advanced planning team for Policygenius.

Some carriers are more favorable than others to smokers, and a broker can steer you in the right direction.

"It's important to get the right amount of coverage to protect yourself and your family," Mancuso said.

During the one to two years after your policy goes into effect, there is a so-called contestability period during which the company can review your application to make sure there are no misrepresentations, according to Policygenius.

Being honest when you apply will help ensure you get the coverage you need.

"Premiums could go up and could be price prohibitive — it doesn't lessen the need for the amount of insurance you have to get," Mancuso said.

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Key Points
  • Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing to wipe out an estimated $81 billion in past-due medical debt.
  • Up to 80 million Americans could be impacted. 
  • CNBC spoke to people about how they fell into medical debt and how it shapes their lives.