A well-known coalition of charities says that e-cigarettes ought to be a part of the solution, especially for mental health patients who experience dramatically higher rates of smoking
Smoking rates have been on the decline for over 20 years now thanks to a concerted effort by public health organizations and others to get across just how dangerous smoking is. For instance, the UK is currently experiencing the lowest smoking rates they have ever recorded. But one group that has not benefited from this societal trend away from cigarettes is individuals with mental health problems. In fact, mental health patients are over twice as likely to be smokers than the average citizen, and sometimes much worse. According to the King’s Fund, only 16% of average adults smoke in the UK, while rates among mental health patient groups can be as high as 70%.
In response to this continued concern, the Mental Health And Smoking Partnership released a “Statement on Electronic Cigarettes” last week. In it, they outlined why they think vaping should be utilized for its harm reduction and smoking cessation abilities. They also included a list of principles that health professionals and support staff should strive to follow. The purpose of their statement was also to announce their goal of reducing the smoking rate in mental health patients down to 5% by 2035, aiming for 35% by 2020.
Overview Of Their Statement
Their statement started by explaining the interconnected nature of smoking and mental health patients. As said above, smoking continues to be a massive problem among mental health patients because the rate of smoking has not followed the trend seen in most groups. The non-profit makes it clear that this is not for lack of interest in quitting among patients, but rather a higher dependence due to a myriad of stresses that smoking helps ease.
At this point, they made clear what they mean by mental health patients, as many tend to have the wrong idea in their head. The individuals counting in these statistics are not limited to those currently in inpatient care facilities. In fact, that particular group is a small minority of the total number of mental health patients. This is important to note since therefore most have complete freedom to do what they want, and cannot be forced to quit by restricting use.
In light of this, the charities feel that the best course of action is to support vaping as an alternative to smoking. They cite the Public Health England study that found vaping is at least 95% safer than tobacco as their primary reason for support. Especially when taking into account the self-reported effectiveness of vaping on quit attempts. Though, they did acknowledge the research isn’t complete and vaping needs to be studied further before anything can be said definitively. They concluded by calling out the pathetic public perception of vaping, a trend which carries over to mental health patients. According to the charities, it is absolutely critical to improve these numbers in order to carry out any meaningful change.
Principles For Health Professionals
Their official statement included a list of policies for health professionals dealing with similar problems. A majority of them focus on correct training and understanding of the benefits of vaping. Many of the other suggestions focus on how to help smokers with mental health issues transition to vaping. They believe e-cigarettes could be effective where other nicotine replacement therapies have failed, primarily when used in conjunction with medication.
By acknowledging that vaping and smoking are not the same, either in legal or clinical terms, the mental health charities implore facilities to treat them separately and even potentially allow vaping indoors. They cite the lack of evidence suggesting second-hand vapor has any adverse effects on health, let alone anything approaching the level of smoking. If a given facility ultimately decides that vaping must only be done in designated locations, the experts advise that these areas be kept separate from smoking areas. Otherwise, they believe it can directly lead to relapses by putting former smokers in direct contact with cigarettes once again.
The efficacy of vaping as a harm reduction tool is meaningful to all smokers, but this is especially true for mental health patients. Given their much higher smoking rates, and much shorter average lifespans, particular attention ought to be paid to curbing smoking in these groups. After all, it’s the most significant cause of preventable death in the world, so it is undoubtedly contributing to this reduction in average lifespan.
Vaping has already been shown to be a massively successful smoking cessation tool, helping over 50% of daily vapers quit. Another psychologically focused non-profit, the British Psychological Society, recently suggested that vaping might be so useful as a smoking cessation tool due to the psychological cues not found in other nicotine replacement therapies (bringing your hand to your mouth, seeing a cloud exhaled). Given that the average lifespan of a mental health patient is already much shorter than the average person, we should be putting extra effort into limiting the effect of smoking on these groups. After all, they already have more difficult and shorter, so any positive change has the potential to have a much more significant impact.
Do you think that vaping should be used to get mental health patients off smoking? Do you think that limiting tobacco use in mental health patients should be a priority of the vaping movement? Do you agree that e-cigarettes shouldn’t be designated to the same locations as traditional smoking? Let us know what you think in the comments.