An increasingly discussed area in life insurance circles is the manner in which marijuana and e-cigarettes are addressed by life insurance carriers.
There are ramifications for both relative to medical underwriting, and there are financial underwriting issues surrounding marijuana.
First, some background
E-cigarettes are plastic and metal devices that heat a liquid nicotine solution in a disposable cartridge creating vapor that the user inhales. Surprisingly, the first e-cigarette was patented as early as 1963, but it only became popular after a 2003 patent, according to a March 2014 presentation at the Risk Appraisal Forum.
Tobacco use remains high. Although it has dropped significantly in the US since the 1964 Surgeon’s General Report (a drop among adults from 43 percent in 1965 to 19 percent in 2014) usage remains high. Nearly 50 million Americans still use some form of tobacco with 443,000 smoking attributed deaths each year. Ten percent of those are attributed to secondhand smoke. Worldwide there is an estimated 1.2 billion tobacco users with 6 million tobacco-related deaths annually. E-cigarette usage is only a small fraction of sales compared to traditional cigarettes. Roughly 20 percent of traditional cigarette smokers have tried e-cigarettes.
There are significant differences between traditional tobacco and e-cigarettes. Over 7,000 known toxins and carcinogens are in tobacco. By contrast, the toxic substances in e-cigarettes are lower. An analysis of 12 different types of e-cigarettes shows toxic substances at levels 9 to 450 times lower, with the highest concentrations approaching the same toxicity as a nicotine patch.
Still, there is no long term analysis of the effects of e-cigarettes. There also is a dearth of regulation or oversight of their manufacture, and no guidelines relative to sterile manufacturing.
There are currently more than 200 e-cigarette manufacturers, each using widely different standards. The only e-cigarettes currently marketed for therapeutic purposes are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Marijuana is the most common illicit drug used in the United States, and accounts for roughly 75 percent of all current illicit drug use. About 5 million Americans use it frequently (at least 51 days per year).
The federal government considers marijuana a Schedule I substance that has no (recognized) medicinal uses and high risk for abuse. Nonetheless, nearly 30 states have approved marijuana for medical use and another handful have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Among the possible medical benefits are treatment of autoimmune diseases (inflammation and pain), seizures and substance abuse. These continue to be tested in National Institute for Health (NIH) studies.
Editor’s Note: The article was excerpted from the “2017 Field Guide: Estate & Retirement Planning, Business Planning & Employee Benefits” (National Underwriter Company)
Although the federal government still considers marijuana to be a Schedule I narcotic, in states where the substance has been legalized for medicinal use, patients are turning cannabis products to treat seizure disorders, inflammation, chronic pain and a myriad of other conditions. (Photo: iStock)
Medical underwriting considerations
From a medical perspective, e-cigarettes have not been fully studied, so consumers and insurers currently don’t know the potential risks of e-cigarettes when used as intended, or how much nicotine or other potentially harmful chemicals are being inhaled during use. Although the harmful effects of traditional cigarette smoking lies in the tobacco leaf and other chemicals, most carriers have limits on both cigarette smoking and tobacco in any other form, such as chew.
For many carriers, e-cigarette use falls into the “other form of tobacco product.” Typically nicotine is detected through tests of a proposed insured’s urine. If the nicotine content in urine is negative, then a no-tobacco rating is often available. However, if the nicotine is present in one’s urine, then some form of life insurance using tobacco rates will usually be offered.