Don’t get burned by e-cigarettes

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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 530 cases of lung injury linked to e-cigarettes (or vaping) as of this week. Seven deaths have been confirmed in six states and the injuries span 38 states and one U.S. territory. Half of all known cases appear to involve people 25 and younger.

Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of the CDC, said she expects the agency’s next weekly report to include a “much higher” number, in testimony before a Congressional panel. That panel’s chairman, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D., Ill.), said that vaping products were generally “released onto the market without safety testing and trials.”

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.