Heartland Institute, R-Street Issue Report on Tobacco Use, Insurance Rates

Published August 9, 2012

A new policy brief co-published by The Heartland Institute explores a growing body of data, including several studies from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, finding certain tobacco and nicotine products pose lesser health risks than smoking.

The report, released jointly by Heartland and the Washington, DC-based R Street Institute, “How Should Insurers Treat Tobacco Use? A Review of the Research,” was written by R Street President Eli Lehrer.

Brad Rodu, a Heartland Institute senior fellow and professor of medicine and endowed chair in tobacco harm reduction research at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, said, “Eli Lehrer’s report provides a rational scientific foundation that insurers could use to improve ratings for users of smoke-free tobacco products (e.g. snus, dissolvables, e-cigarettes), which are vastly safer than cigarettes and other combustibles.

“Tobacco harm reduction can be the basis for insurance policies that promote healthier choices by smokers,” Rodu said.

Lehrer notes tobacco users are less healthy than the population as a whole, die more quickly on average, and in many cases engage in a variety of personal behaviors shown to result in policy claims. He contends an ever-growing reserve of data concerning reduced-harm tobacco and nicotine products suggests health and life insurers might consider taking into account the type of tobacco used, particularly in light of forthcoming restrictions on insurance rating in the health insurance market.

The paper reviews research about the harms of tobacco and the value of tobacco use as an insurance rating factor; reviews scientific work suggesting some types of tobacco appear less harmful than others; and concludes with three points relevant to policymakers and life and health insurers interested in gaining a more complete and nuanced view of tobacco use.

For more information about the report, contact R Street President Eli Lehrer directly at [email protected] or 202/615.0586. To interview Dr. Brad Rodu on the topic of tobacco harm reduction or book him as a guest on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at [email protected] and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at [email protected] and 312/731-9364.

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.