Time to break the status quo which is killing thousands of people each year 5

Sometimes ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. Sometimes the problem will just fester away in the background. It may not get worse, but what if the problem in question is leading to the early deaths of thousands of people each year in Scotland alone?

That makes the status quo seem pretty unacceptable. Something must indeed be done.

Today (10th October) is World Mental Health Day. ASH Scotland has marked the occasion by reiterating our call for robust action to break the link between smoking and mental health.

It is well known that smoking rates are significantly higher amongst people with mental health issues, who use smoking to try to cope with symptoms from stress and anxiety through to boredom. Smoking is the single largest factor in this group dying 10-20 years earlier than the general population.

Yet while smoking is often considered to be a useful support or comfort to people with mental health problems, our comprehensive review of the published evidence showed that not only is smoking enormously damaging to physical health, but that stopping smoking is linked with improved mental well-being too.

Yet too many people still think of the cigarette as something to turn to in time of need, rather than as an addiction or habit that places an additional burden on this already disadvantaged group.

The needs that people are seeking to address, such as stress relief or boredom, are very real. But there is an urgent need to develop and promote less harmful coping mechanisms, which will aid long-term recovery rather than sustain the underlying problems.

We have called for the next national mental health strategy to clearly state that support to stop smoking should be an integral part of mental health support services, and have welcomed the fact that the initial draft published by the Government did indicate that this link should be addressed.

To break the status quo we need to start working on what that change looks like and how we bring it to life.


  1. Yes, support to stop smoking, not punishment for failing to do so. ASH Scotland are drgging their heels over the issue of encouraging e cigarette use despite the fact that they are massively safer than smoking.

    Ordinary people who make up the vaping community are streets ahead of those who pose and pretend that they know best in their thinking about issues surrounding smoking, nicotine and harm reduction

    For example, nicotine and addiction.

    Nicotine plays a very important role in the initiation of an the addictive habit – well we all know that – but, what people like ASH have not said is that his role diminishes as the habit progresses. This is why nicotine replacement is such an utter and abject failure – yet ASH still push something that does not work. The role of nicotine is replaced as time goes by. Atomotive behaviour patterns begin to establish themselves, They are powerful. I do not want you to read the next sentence, just count the words. Please do not read this. There… you read it. You cannot help yourself. You cannot stop it happening. It is a part of you, fully automatic. Well… smoking is the same.

    When a smoker tries to stop smoking the withdrawal is only partly due to nicotine. the smoker misses the taste, the smell and most importantly the throat hit. He / she misses having something in their hand and putting it to their mouth and drawing the smoke, and then, the exhale and that lovely plume of smoke…

    And there is no need to heap discomfort on the very people who need this least – absolutely no need.

    E-cigarettes have been demonstrated to fill the gaps that quitting smoking leaves. All of the ingredients of the smoking habit are there – except the damaging smoke. Yet ASH do not like it… Why?

    Well, they say that there might be some long term risk – they do not know what it is – but there might be one so they urge use of the precautionary principle

    Oh! but this is what they said before the invention of the e-cigarette..

    “…it would be a perverse use of the precautionary principle to await the outcomes of … research before encouraging smokers to switch from tobacco to pure nicotine products, given that the use of pure nicotine products is many orders of magnitude safer than smoking.” Action on Smoking & Health. Oct 2008.

    Hmmm! It looks like ASH have been caught up in their own zeal and it is the weakest in our society who will be made to suffer.

  2. Quitting tobacco involves not just nicotine addiction, as has been studied and published ad nauseum.

    First up: It is not the nicotine that is the problem, it is the other additives that tobacco is treated with and then creates the chemical reaction of during combustion. MAOIs are the main one that comes to mind when we think of the “need” to smoke. History lesson next: MAOI’s were used in the 1960s for severely depressed and mentally unwell people to stabilise them (in case you didn’t know).

    There are studies taking place RIGHT NOW in NZ and elsewhere that have shown that there are plenty of issues with the additives in cigarettes that cause the addictive nature of smoking, and not the nicotine.

    Secondly: smoking is a behaviour – hand to mouth. This is the reason so many NRT fail, and fail on an epic level. Smoking is more than just addiction, it is also a behaviour, a learned behaviour. Vaping addresses all of these things.

    It is all well and good to say that vaping “may” help or “you view vaping as a way away from smoking” but unless you actually walk that talk, it is meaningless.

  3. John,

    Would that be the same nicotine that is in NRT products? Patches, gums, sprays etc? The same nicotine as is present in cauliflower, aubergines, potatoes & tomatoes to name but a few. I’ve yet to hear of one case where a person is addicted to tomatoes.

    Furthermore, you cannot possibly blame nicotine and in the same breath advocate NRT if addiction to nicotine alone is the problem.

    What is the difference between the nicotine in NRT and the nicotine in vaping products?

    The reason that vaping products work so much better than standard NRT is, as Nancy Sutthoff points out, that vaping gives the user so much more than traditional NRT could possibly hope to give. The hand to mouth behaviour is replicated. The exhalation of vapour replicates the smoking experience and the pleasure derived from that act. And, most importantly, none of the standard NRT can possibly give the all important “throat hit” that both smoking and vaping deliver effectively.

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