Smokers of all ages pay more for their life insurance than those who don’t smoke because tobacco use is the single most avoidable cause of death, disease and disability. In the EU, it accounts for 700,000 deaths per annum of which 5,200 lives are lost in Ireland.

In 1912 it was first proposed that the inhalation of tobacco smoke might be the cause of lung cancer. Since then, knowledge about the significant health effects of smoking has increased exponentially. Mortality risk from smoking can be seen in cancer, emphysema and chronic respiratory disorders as well as morbidity contributing to heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnoea and bronchitis.

Nicotine is a psychoactive drug that is absorbed into the blood stream either through the lungs or the sub-mucosal membranes. It is considered to be the most addictive of all psychoactive substances rating higher than cocaine, heroin or alcohol.

An e-cigarette is a battery powered device which supplies nicotine to the user through inhaled water vapour. The device consists of a cartridge usually containing propylene glycol (which produces smoke vapour), nicotine, water and flavourings. They do not contain tobacco and there is no combustion, smoke or any odour. Industry commentators claim that 6-7% of smokers or 50,000 people in Ireland have switched to e-cigarettes.

The Centre for Tobacco Research and Education in California notes that whilst data is limited, it is clear that emissions from e-cigarettes are not merely water vapour and can potentially be a source of indoor air pollution.

In Ireland the HSE has introduced a total ban on e-cigarettes in all health facilities from 1st of May 2014. The ban followed an in depth review of the safety of e-cigarettes stating that, in their opinion there is no conclusive evidence that e-cigarettes are safe for long term use and are effective as a smoking cessation aid.

A survey of 150 insurance underwriters in America reported that 90% of candidates considered e-cigarettes users as smokers. For the foreseeable future, eCigarette users will continue to be regarded as smokers by UK and Irish Insurers.