“The Stolen Years”, a report by ASH, endorsed by 27 health and mental health organisations, sets out recommendations for how smoking rates for people with a mental health condition could be dramatically reduced.

These include improved training of healthcare staff, better access to stop smoking medication and a move towards smokefree mental health settings.

The report was launched in Parliament on 12th April 2016.

Executive Summery: “Mental health conditions affect almost a quarter of the population who die on average 10-20 years earlier than the general population. Smoking is the single largest cause of this gap in life expectancy. People with mental health conditions smoke at higher rates and are more heavily addicted – around one third of adult tobacco consumption is by people with a mental health condition. As such they experience much greater smoking related harm. Smoking rates among people with mental health conditions have barely changed at all over the last 20 years during a time when rates have been steadily falling in the general population. People with a mental health condition are just as likely to want to stop smoking as other smokers but they face more barriers to quitting and are more likely to be dependant and therefore need more support. Quitting smoking does not exacerbate poor mental health; in fact the positive impact of smoking cessation on anxiety and depression appears to be at least as large as antidepressants. Action is needed to address the growing difference in smoking rates among those with a mental health condition compared to the general population. There is no single measure that will transform outcomes but a whole systems approach is needed that involves staff across mental health, physical health and social care, and empowers individuals to realise their goals of being smokefree.”

Response have partnered up with Oxfordshire County Council and Totally Wicked Vapes to try to address this disparity

Response has teamed up with Oxfordshire County Council and Totally Wicked Vapes in a new vape initiative to encourage Response residents to quit smoking. The initiative includes providing residents who smoke up to 12 weeks of behavioural support. The resident will also receive a free vaping device with 4 weeks of accessories and vape liquids, after which, they will be supported by Response staff to start purchasing their own vaping supplies. Our identified smoking cessation and vape initiative leads received level 2 practitioner training to ensure they provide the best possible support to residents who want to become smoke free. This wonderful initiative has been made possible by the support from both Oxfordshire County Council and Totally Wicked Vapes, who are committed to the cause of improving the physical and mental health of Response residents.

‘We currently have 183 residents who smoke tobacco every single day, with the support of our funder and Totally Wicked Vapes we can offer every resident who smokes a vaping device, the accessories and vape liquids and the 12 weeks of professional support needed to quit. If we were to manage to stop them smoking their life expectancy would rise considerably, their physical health would improve which would improve their mental health and lead to a better quality of life!’ 

– Greg Hodgkins, Substance misuse Coordinator at Response

Around one third of tobacco consumers have a mental health condition. Those struggling with their mental health smoke at higher rates and face many more barriers when aspiring to go smoke-free. Nicotine affects our dopamine levels (the happy hormone) therefore smoking might be someone’s way of self-medicating depression, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness. But of course, this isn’t a healthy way of managing our emotions long-term. Smoking has adverse effects on our physical health which can impact our mental health and even reduce our life expectancy. Cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, 250 of which are harmful and 69 can cause cancer. Vaping is 95% less dangerous that smoking, which is why we are encouraging Response residents who smoke, to switch to vapes.

The tobacco industry has a well-documented history of marketing to vulnerable groups particularly those with mental health conditions. Studies have shown that tobacco industries have even directly targeted psychiatric hospitals with cigarette promotions and giveaways. We are so grateful to work with Totally Wicked Vapes who are (founding) members of the Independent British Vape Traders Association (IBVTA), an association dedicated to giving vape traders an opportunity to trade ethically and independently from tobacco industries. Totally Wicked Vapes put public health at the forefront of their trade and are eager in helping our residents to become smoke-free.