Don’t get burned by e-cigarettes

Getty images

Electronic cigarettes have been marketed as a healthier alternative to smoking tobacco, but a recent outbreak of lung disease linked to e-cigarettes shows that smoking is unsafe in any form, and insurers are cautioned to review their books of business for exposures to e-cigarettes.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has reported 12 deaths and 805 cases of lung injury linked to e-cigarettes (or vaping) as of this week.  Of the 373 cases where data on the patients was available, about three-quarters were male, two-thirds were 18 years to 34 years old and 16 percent were younger than 18 years

The cause of the illnesses has not been linked to any specific ingredients or devices. And while health officials continue to investigate, people are cautioned to refrain from using e-cigarettes altogether, and particularly to stay away from vaping liquids or devices sold on the street.

And if the outbreak of lung disease is not bad enough, e-cigarette batteries have been known to explode, causing serious injuries and a few deaths. A study from George Mason University estimated there were more than 2,000 visits to U.S. emergency rooms from 2015 to 2017 for e-cigarette burns and explosion-related injuries.

In a recent blog post, Tim Fletcher, Senior Emerging Issues Specialist at Gen Re suggests that in response to the situation insurers should review their small commercial retail book to determine whether any are selling e-cigarettes. Such retailers could include convenience stores, gas stations, and liquor stores. The blog lists several forms and ISO exclusions for e-cigarettes.

The Gen Re blogger reminds insurers that the duty to defend exists in all standard CGL occurrence forms with the potential to incur uncapped defense costs.