Being smoke-free helps relieve stress, anxiety and depression and gives you a more positive outlook on life. These benefits apply to all smokers, not just those with pre-existing mental health problems.
The mental health benefits of quitting smoking
Studies show that people’s anxiety, depression and stress levels are lower after they stop smoking when compared with those who carry on smoking and that their quality of life and mood improves. Also, the improved levels of oxygen in the body mean that ex-smokers can concentrate better.
Smokers with mental health problems
The psychological benefits of stopping smoking are just as striking in people who already have a mental health disorder as those without. Stopping smoking helps their mental health symptoms and can lead to reduced doses of anti-psychotic medicine.
This is welcome news because people with diagnosed mental health problems, including anxiety, depression or schizophrenia, are two to three times more likely to take up smoking and also tend to smoke more heavily than the general population.
It’s estimated that 30% of all smokers have a mental health problem. Smokers living with a mental health problem also have a life expectancy eight years less than the general population, very likely as a result of the physical ravages of smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease.
If you take antipsychotic medicines and want to stop smoking it’s very important that you talk to your doctor and/or psychiatrist before you stop as the dosage of your prescription drugs may need to be monitored and the amount you have to take could be reduced.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, people with depression and other mental health conditions can find it particularly difficult to give up smoking and experience stronger withdrawal symptoms and craving.
The good news is there is a safer alternative
Having experienced it first hand in and out of psychiatric hospital, the vast majority of people suffering mental illness of any kind are not just more likely to smoke but also smoke heavier.
These people are already some of the most vulnerable in society and more needs to be done to help them quit the deadly tobacco. It’s also worth noting that sticking a nicotine patch on the majority of these people is not going to help.
Smoking and Schizophrenia
Thanks to research advances, scientists are learning how and why smoking and schizophrenia are so tightly linked. Nicotine in cigarettes and other forms appears to help normalize some of the cognitive and sensory deficits that people with this disorder experience. Scientists have looked inside the brain to uncover regions involved in deficits of schizophrenia and to learn how and where nicotine works to combat them. Now, enhanced knowledge is helping scientists develop drugs to treat this debilitating disorder.
Scientists have found that smoking and schizophrenia are tightly linked, but are not sure why. Could nicotine actually be helping the disorder? If so, then it is a double-edged sword, because smoking is a life-threatening behaviour.
If this is the case, why are professionals not pushing for a safer alternative?
However, it’s not just the nicotine but the actual act of smoking. The “Hand to mouth” action, the inhalation and the social aspect. I’ve witnessed first-hand the social aspect of it, especially in hospital where there is seldom much to do. In fact in my experience people’s lives evolve around the whole act of smoking and socialising. I’ve witnessed friendships being made as people congregate in the designated smoking spaces. I’ve witnessed people begging for a roll-up until they get their meagre benefits when most of it is spent on cigarettes.
If only there was something that replicates smoking but is 95% less harmful?
Wait, what do you mean there is?
E-cigarettes/disposable vapes have been around for some time now and they have evolved to become mainstream and far more advanced particularly with people looking to quit smoking.
My last stay in hospital was 2021 and nothing had changed in 30 years. Not a single person vaping, including myself. I’d smoke until I felt sick because that was literally the only thing to look forward to and due to lack of staff (Something else that hasn’t changed) there is a lack of anything to do.
I look at each poor soul and know there is some harrowing story as to why they are there. I’ve struck up some of my best friendships in these places and know how much a small act of kindness can go a long way. Something many of the staff could benefit from.
People who have suffered childhood trauma are 3 times more likely to develop COPD and are also at higher risk of developing cancer as well as other debilitating physical illnesses.
Don’t these people suffer enough?
I have never seen the encouragement to switch to a healthier alternative, in fact quite the opposite, being able to smoke is still seen as some kind of reward for compliant behaviour.
What century are we living in?
We’ve come a long way from strait jackets and lobotomies but when it comes to tobacco use nothing has changed, if anything it has been allowed to get worse. I could easily get through 25 grams of tobacco a day and wish I had the knowledge I have now because I can state as a fact I would have quit tobacco many years ago.
I’ve witnessed people smoking used cigarette ends, rifling through a bucket full of sand for butt ends all because they are craving nicotine. Their fingers discoloured to a dark brown colour, lighting their next cigarette from there last one.
Why in a civilised country are we allowing this to continue without at least promoting a healthier alternative? Not only physically beneficial but financially too?
More emphasis needs to be put on tobacco harm reduction and if it is by promoting e-cigarettes I can only see this as a good thing. Every tobacco smoker can benefit from this.
To be honest I was in that bracket of thinking vaping needs to be complicated but with e-cigarettes/disposable vapes there’s no need for any technical knowledge, changing coils and tanks, selecting the correct output and e-liquid etc. If you decide to progress onto a vaping device, great but with e-cigarettes there is no need for charging (Bearing in mind psychiatric hospitals do not let you have cables or charging leads for good reason) you simply open the packet inhale and go. Nothing could be easier.
I hope professionals have a change in attitude towards encouraging tobacco harm reduction and the cost benefits on the NHS would be substantial.
Smokers’ need for health and social care at a younger age than non-smokers also creates costs, with smoking costing the NHS an additional £2.4bn and a further £1.2bn in social care costs. This includes the cost of care provided in the home and, for the first time, residential care costs. However, many of smokers’ care needs are met informally by friends and family. It’s estimated that to provide paid-for care to meet needs would cost society a further £14bn this is not included in the overall £17bn figure but illustrates the wider burden of smoking beyond pounds and pence.
Smoking-related fires are the leading cause of fire-related deaths, and the costs of property damage, injuries and deaths amount to another £280m.
If tobacco smoking was just invented and you knew the consequences of smoking would start smoking now?
The amount of life expectancy lost for each pack of cigarettes smoked is 28 minutes, and the years of life expectancy a typical smoker loses is 25 years.
There are some 1.1 billion people who smoke on our planet earth. Just under one-third of all adults in the world, smoke tobacco regularly. Tobacco deaths will not only occur in old age but will start when smokers are about age 35. Half of those who die from smoking-related causes will die in middle age, each losing about 25 years of life expectancy. More than 95% of the tobacco consumed is in the form of cigarettes. About half of all smokers who undergo lung cancer take up smoking again.
Source: Dying to Quit,” a 1998 book by Janet Brigham
Welcome to the war on vaping.
In his documentary, A Billion Lives, filmmaker Aaron Biebert looks at the phenomenon of e-cigarettes, or “vaping” – a form of nicotine delivery that advocates say is much healthier than smoking tobacco. However, vaping has been under legal attack and has been banned in several jurisdictions, which Biebert’s film asserts is due to pressure and misinformation from the tobacco industry.
“Just like many people, I am friends with vapers on Facebook.”Biebert tells us. “Just like many people, I thought it looked odd, like some sort of hipster way to smoke. I used to make fun of it, until one of them pointed out that it saved their life. Even worse, they showed me how propaganda from powerful American organizations was making this new technology look bad.”