Life Insurers View Tobacco and Cannabis As Same Risk

Insurers say that tobacco and cannabis carry the same risk, resulting in higher premiums for Canadians that use cannabis, regardless of the form they prefer to ingest.

Medical patients and producers are hoping that, with legalization on the horizon, the insurance industry will change policies for medical patients, especially those that use it in liquid or edible form.

Vancouver life insurance broker Jim Pan said clients must disclose recreational cannabis by answering “yes” to using illicit drugs, or list medical cannabis as a prescription.

Pan said insurers rate cannabis use at the same risk level as tobacco use, according to research done by the industry.

B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS infectious-disease epidemiologist Dr. M.J. Milloy said the available medical research proves that “it is inaccurate and inappropriate to put cannabis on the same rung” as smoking.

“Tobacco use is going to be the prime risk factor in the death of something like 15,000 to 20,000 Canadians this year due to lung cancer,” Milloy said. “There is no good evidence to suggest that people who smoke cannabis have a raised risk of lung cancer or other respiratory or cardiovascular diseases than people who do not.

“Microscopically, pathophysiologically, it’s been shown that smoking cannabis does do things to your lungs, but there’s never been any link proven between that usage and lung or cardiovascular complications.”

Pan said, recently, insurers have reviewed their policies on medical cannabis as new research is conducted, lowering rates.

“Before, those who used marijuana, let’s say once a week or even on a week-to-week basis, would be a decline – the insurance company would not cover them for life insurance or critical illness insurance,” Pan said.