Experts seek more acceptance of e-cigarettes for smokers with mental health problems

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February 2018

An alliance of mental health and public health organisations have called for better understanding of the role that electronic (e) cigarettes can play as a help for smokers with mental health conditions who want to quit.

In a recently issued Statement on Electronic Cigarettes, the Mental Health & Smoking Partnership highlighted the need for wider acceptance of e-cigarettes in mental health settings.

Both the NHS Five Year Forward View for Mental Health and the new Tobacco Control Plan for England emphasise the need for ‘parity of esteem’ in tackling rates of smoking.

However, smoking is still about twice as common among people with mental health conditions who die, on average, 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population with smoking being the single largest cause of this disparity.

Existing evidence shows that using e-cigarettes carries a fraction of the risk of smoking tobacco, but policies on e-cigarette use are inconsistent across mental health settings.

The Partnership alliance said a combination of nicotine replacement, such as with gum, patches or e-cigarette, when combined with behavioural support from a trained smoking cessation worker, made quit attempts four times as likely to succeed.

Professor Ann McNeill of the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and co-chair of the Partnership said: ‘E-cigarettes provide a new opportunity for people to move away from smoking and avoid the terrible burden of death and disease it causes.

‘In publishing this statement, we seek to address some of the widespread misunderstandings about e-cigarettes.

‘It is hoped that it will support mental health staff and organisations in thinking about how they can encourage more of their service users to make the switch from smoking tobacco.’