Insurance Companies Profit From Smokers
Smokers have it tough these days without a doubt. Not only are they forbidden to light up in most restaurants, at least in major cities, but they have even been 86'd from what used to be their safe havens, nightclubs and bars. And if that wasn't enough, private insurance companies have been bullying smokers for profit, charging double whammy costs for smokers and effectively burning the smokers' money from both ends.
American Smokers Paying Double
Of course it makes sense for life insurance companies to charge higher premiums to smokers and tobacco chewers being there is a higher probability of death from the myriad of diseases caused by tobacco, but the double whammy comes in how the insureres make their extra cash. The higher premiums that the life insurance companies collect from smokers is being invested back into tobacco companies, thus, the insurance companies are making a double profit from smokers.
It's not new news that insurance companies have been profiting from smokers through selling them high cost health and life insurance and then making money at the same time through cigarette sales. Smokers are even charged more by some auto insurers for car coverage. For more than ten years public health advocates have asked the insurance companies to divest their insurance holdings in the tobacco industry but as long as the tobacco dividends pay out and insurance companies profit from smokers there isn't much of a chance the insurance companies will stop. So, smokers will continue to pay the premium.
Smokers are getting mixed messages from their life insurance companies and even often get overcharged by the insurance companies in relation to the cost of the risk. In other cases the insurance companies flat out refuse to cover smokers. Either way it looks like smokers will be paying the premium, except in Japan.
Japan Takes A Stand to Help Smokers Quit
Health insurance companies in Japan decided to cover the costs of new pills that help their smoking clients to quit. Smoking rates in Japan have dropped since the implementation of the program. The health insurance covers a twelve-week treatment but is often successful within 8 days in cutting down the patient’s appetite for cigarettes.
Varenicline Anti Smoking Drug Offers New Hope for Quitters
The active ingredient in the treatment, Varenicline, takes the pleasure out of smoking by blocking the pleasure chemical, dopamine, from attaching to the receptors in the patients nerve cells. The pills are taken twice a day for the duration of the twelve-week treatment. The doctors test the patient’s breath for carbon monoxide to test their progress and then adjust or enhance the treatments accordingly.
This kind of treatment does pose a conflict of interest to the insurance companies' profits on smokers here in the United States. Since it is a true and effective aid to decreasing smoking, the use of the new drug might mean lower dividends from smokers at insurance companies and their investment portfolios. So smokers here in the United States shouldn’t expect much help in their quest to quit smoking or chewing tobacco from the insurers at this point in time. The insurance companies are profiting off their mixed messages after all.
The increasing costs to smokers and the continued decline of the smoker’s social status seem to be powerful incentives to quitting, but only time will tell.