“I found you online, and I admire your courage to speak the truth about smoking and chewing.
“Please let me know if you can help educate my health ‘insurance’ company on the truth about chewing tobacco. Any help is appreciated.”
This narrative is not unusual; over the years, I have received numerous similar complaints. Many smoke-free tobacco users are pioneers; my research group published a study about them in 1995, and I have also told their stories in this blog.
Unfortunately, smoke-free tobacco users continue to suffer from policies that consider all tobacco products – even medicinal nicotine – as equally dangerous, and all tobacco/nicotine users as high-risk. This conflation of risks improperly raises premium costs, limits employment opportunities and degrades the quality of smoke-free tobacco users’ lives. It also provides a financial windfall for insurers.
The federal government and health organizations often promote this conflation, and Obamacare legislation codified it, defining“smoking” as “using any tobacco producton average four or more times per week in the past six months.” (emphasis added) It may be justifiable to charge smokers higher premiums, because they are at risk for many diseases that health insurance must cover and, on average, their lives will be shortened by 8-10 years, justifying higher life insurance premiums. But use of smoke-free tobacco products which are associated with minimal or no added health risks should not incur such punitive premium treatment.
As a health professional, I do not condone deliberate misreporting of tobacco use on insurance applications. However, I do oppose the degradation of smoke-free tobacco users’ quality of life for no legitimate reason.