Mental Health Week is the perfect time to reflect that, according to Public Health England, “1 in 3 cigarettes is smoked by someone with a mental health condition”, so getting them to quit has become an “overriding priority.”
There is a strong association between smoking and mental health conditions. Smoking rates among people with a mental health condition are significantly higher than in the general population.
This association becomes stronger relative to the severity of the mental health condition, with the highest levels of smoking found in psychiatric in-patients. Quitting smoking is particularly important for this group since smoking is the single largest contributor to their 10-20 year reduced life expectancy.
What’s more, cigarette smokers often report that smoking helps to relieve feelings of anxiety and stress. The high smoking prevalence among people facing social and economic deprivation suggests that smoking may be used as a self-medicating method of coping with another huge contributor to poor mental health, stress.
Right now, recognising how effective vaping is in getting smokers to stop, many UK mental health trusts allow the use of vaping products on their premises in areas separate from regular smokers – many even provide e-cigarettes free to their patients.
This does raise issues though: a recent survey revealed 51% of mental health nurses said they did not receive or could not recall training on the use of e-cigarettes, which we know is a vital step in the smokers journey from tobacco to vaping.
It’s not just mental health services that are embracing e-cigarettes as the leading method to help people kick tobacco for good: in 2019, after several hospitals banned smoking altogether on their premises, two NHS hospitals took the bold step of allowing vape shops to open within their property.
And just in the last couple of weeks we have witnessed the launch of a trial that will see NHS staff in five hospitals hand out free e-cigarettes to smokers attending A&E departments.
The UKVIA and its members have worked tirelessly over the last five years to promote the benefits of vaping compared to smoking, and we are now starting to see not only mental health services, but the wider NHS and esteemed health protection organisations including PHE and Cancer Research UK, extolling the virtues of e-cigarettes as the best, most effective method for helping smokers to quit their habit for good.