Seven facts for life insurers to know about vaping

by ExamOne on September 17, 2019

Is vaping impacting an individual’s health and the corresponding effect on life insurance?

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced their investigation of severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes (also known as vaping). And tragically, multiple deaths linked to vaping have been reported across the country. These are a few examples of issues surfacing that may have previously gone unrecognized, as vaping is still a fairly new phenomenon. However, there are some things we know for sure about vaping that could impact life insurers.

Here are some vaping facts from MD Anderson Cancer Center:

 1. The liquids used in vaping are dangerous. E-cigarettes have been known to explode and the fluid is poisonous if it comes into contact with eyes or skin, or if you accidentally or deliberately drink it.

2. If you’re a smoker, vaping could support your habit, not break it. Instead of transitioning from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, some smokers end up using both. This can increase nicotine addiction instead of lessening it. E-cigarettes have not received Food and Drug Administration approval as smoking cessation devices.

3. Researchers know that e-cigarette aerosol contains toxic chemicals like those found in glue and paint. What is less clear is if the amounts are high enough to cause diseases like cancer.

4. The nicotine, regardless of the source, is addictive and toxic. E-cigarettes are used as a nicotine delivery system. In fact, nicotine is one of the most addictive substances available.

Other vaping facts for insurers to consider:

5. Nicotine is proven to cause multiple health problems, some fatal. John Hopkins Medicine reiterates the danger of nicotine, no matter in what form it is ingested. It can raise blood pressure and cause spikes in adrenaline, which increases the heart rate and the likelihood of having a heart attack.

6. E-cigarettes can also be used to vaporize cannabis and THC, with unknown long-term effects. The relationship between nicotine and cotinine has been thoroughly researched and analyzed over the years. However, information on the effects of cannabinoids is not as scientifically vetted.

7. There are also potentially toxic metal nanoparticles in some e-cig devices that can be harmful. A National Institute of Drug Abuse report shows that some devices contain high levels of nickel and chromium.

Laboratory testing and vaping

Another fact that we can all agree upon is that more research is needed to determine how vaping impacts an individual’s health and the corresponding effect for life insurers. The negative health consequences from long-term tobacco use and smoking either cigarettes or cigars took decades to prove. Extensive health data for vaping does not exist yet. In the meantime, ExamOne will continue to work with our life insurance clients to help build comprehensive cotinine and THC laboratory testing solutions to address their requirements concerning vaping.

Workforce drug testing positivity climbed to its highest rate since 2004, according to the latest report of the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™ (DTI) released this spring. According to the report, 2018 positivity rates in the combined U.S. workforce increased to 4.4% in urine tests, an increase of nearly 5%. Overall positivity is now 25% higher than the 30-year low of 3.5% recorded between 2010-2012. As workforce positivity rates continue to rise, are the same trends reflected in life insurance drug use positivity rates?

Marijuana dominates in the general U.S. workforce and life insurance drugs of abuse positivity rates

The DTI reports that marijuana continues to top the list of most commonly detected illicit substances among American workers. As marijuana is legalized in more states, positivity rates are rising for life insurance applicants, as well. Marijuana positivity for the general U.S. workforce was 2.8%, and even higher in the life insurance population, with a 4.03% positivity rate.

Marijuana in the insurance population remains near its all-time high in 2017.

ExamOne’s data analytics experts also recently published other emerging insights on the magnitude of marijuana risk from a life insurance underwriting perspective. The ExamOne study revealed higher mortality risk among male marijuana users.

Misuse of other drugs impacts both employers and insurance companies

For other drugs of abuse, insurance positivity rates do not differ substantially from those seen in workforce testing. Cocaine, which had a 0.28% positivity rate in urine testing among the general U.S. workforce tested by Quest in 2018, had a 0.17% positivity rate within the life insurance population. Furthermore, amphetamines, which had a 1.2% positivity rate in the same workforce category showed a comparable 0.84% positivity rate in the life insurance subset.

Drug use affects people of all walks of life, including those who work, who have families and who apply for life insurance. Misuse of drugs and addiction can cause workplace accidents and, according to a 2018 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, among individuals 20-55 years of age “substance abuse, suicides, and diabetes drove a rise in premature deaths in nearly half of the U.S.”

Impact of these losses is shared by employers, insurance companies, and especially families.

See where the highest overall workplace drug positivities are located on this interactive map. And to learn more about adding a drug panel to your life insurance laboratory requirements, please contact your Strategic Account Executive or email:

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