Cigarettes and your health insurance
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Cigarettes and your health insurance

In recent years there has been a massive global push against cigarettes and tobacco products. Gone are the days where the Marlboro Man or Joe Camel would grace everything from radio ads to billboards to magazines and more. These days, the diseases caused by smoking are increasingly well known and many countries have implemented strict rules around the sale and consumption of cigarettes. The thing is, according to a recent Gulf News article smoking still kills up to 27 people a week in the UAE. Here, we take a look at the impact of tobacco on your health and health insurance.

Stopping smoking in the UAE


Smoking in the UAE

In late May 2017, just before the WHO's annual World No Tobacco Day was held, the World Lung Council along with the American Cancer Society released their latest version of the Tobacco Atlas, a report on tobacco use and its impact on global economies and health.

This report contains some valuable insight into smoking in the UAE and the impact it is having on the country and people living there. One of the more intriguing findings is that, "More than 16,600 children and more than 1,107,000 adults continue to use tobacco each day."

The report goes on to break these figures down, citing that in the UAE:

  • 18.5% of men, and 2.5% of women smoke   
  • 15.6% of boys and 5.8% of girls smoke  

While in some cases the number of people smoking or using tobacco products like Shisha, and e-cigarettes in the UAE is lower than in other countries (especially for adults), the Atlas reports that the use amongst children is higher than in other countries, and this could have a drastic impact.

The impact smoking has on your health

The stance on tobacco and its impact on health has certainly come a long way in the past 50 years. We now know that without a doubt, refined tobacco products like cigarettes have relatively few health benefits, and in almost all cases their use will have an overwhelmingly negative impact on your health.

According to the CDC, "Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer." In fact, it is estimated that smoking increases your risk of developing coronary heart disease or a stroke by up to four times. The CDC also estimates that both men and women smokers can face 25 times higher risk of developing lung cancer than people who don't smoke.

To be fair, as we mentioned above the use of tobacco among men and women in the UAE is lower than in other countries. The problem here is that, as we highlighted in a previous article on diabetes, there is an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and poor diet prevalent in the region.

It is widely known that lack of exercise can spur a growth in chronic disease including heart disease. Combine a sedentary lifestyle with smoking and you are exacerbating your risk.

But it's not just people who smoke who are at risk, people exposed to secondhand smoke (being in the same area as someone who is smoking and breathing in the smoke) are also at risk. According to an article on smoking in the Gulf News in early June, "Every six out of ten Emiratis are regularly exposed to secondhand smoke, and this increases their risk of suffering from cardiovascular diseases and lung cancer by 30 per cent,"    

Will insurance cover smoking-related diseases?

Generally speaking, international health insurance plans will cover you if you smoke. That said, when you sign up for a plan you will usually be asked if you smoke and how much you smoke each day. The reason for this is because while you will generally be covered if you smoke, some insurers will have conditions and limitations if you smoke over a certain number of cigarettes a day.

In many cases, if you smoke between 1 and 10 cigarettes a day insurers will not usually view this as having an impact on your coverage. They in turn will not normally attach things like loadings or exclude smoking related diseases.

If you smoke a considerable amount, usually more than a pack a day, insurers might add loadings or exclude certain types of care related to diseases caused by smoking e.g., heart disease.  

It is important to note here that there is no set regulation in place for international health insurance plans and smokers. Individual insurers will have their own terms and conditions in relation to coverage.

Beyond that, Dubai does have mandatory health insurance in place. This insurance, which all people living in the Emirate must secure, states that pre-existing conditions must be covered. This means that if you have a pre-existing condition caused by smoking, you should be covered.

Will health insurance cover smoking cessation?

In an effort to reduce the number of people smoking in the UAE, many of the Emirates have been taking steps to introduce stricter regulations e.g., smoking bans, or more graphic packaging. Some even offer smoking cessation clinics that strive to offer people the support they need to quit.

The problem is, many insurance plans including those that are international in nature do not actually cover the costs associated with smoking cessation. While there are some free clinics, some Emirates only offer these to local residents. If you are an expat, you might have to pay.

It is also important to know that if you are in Dubai the cost of care related to smoking is covered, there is no requirement for DHA plans to cover smoking cessation. It is therefore important to read your plan's terms and conditions and table of benefits as it will usually list whether cessation is covered or not.

If you have any questions about health insurance and smoking in the UAE, why not talk with an advisor at UAE Medical Insurance today.


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