Top Cancer Charities Urge UK Government To Promote Vaping To Smokers Suffering From Mental Health Conditions

Steve Birr | Contributor

A coalition of the top public health groups and charities in the United Kingdom are urging tobacco treatment services to offer vaping to smokers with mental health conditions.

The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership, which includes the Royal College of Physicians and Cancer Research UK, issued a statement Wednesday arguing that electronic cigarettes are changing the tobacco landscape in a historic way, offering smokers a tool that is actually effective for quitting smoking. The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership said public health groups and the government must seize this opportunity to help reduce smoking rates for people with mental health conditions, who are twice as likely to smoke as the broader population, reports Cancer UK.

Vaping policies are currently uneven in psychiatric centers in the U.K. and smoking remains “part of the culture in too many mental health settings,” according to the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership. They argue mental health services and programs dedicated to helping smokers quit should promote vaping devices as a safe way to ditch cigarettes.

“This is a great inequality leading to early death and years of chronic illness for many,” professor Ann McNeill, co-chair of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership, told Cancer Research UK. “E-cigarettes provide a new opportunity for people to move away from smoking and avoid the terrible burden of death and disease it causes.”

While smoking rates have declined significantly among the general population over the past two decades, they have not shifted in a meaningful way for people with mental health conditions. In U.K. psychiatric units, smoking rates can still be as high as 70 percent.

With the help of public health organizations and government-backed stop-smoking services the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership hopes to reduce the smoking rate among people with mental health conditions to 5 percent by 2035.

Vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke, according to Public Health England.

The U.K.’s Department of Health released a policy paper on e-cigarettes July 18, backing the devices as a useful tool to quit smoking and eliminate secondhand risks to the public. The department’s Five Year Tobacco Control plan aims to significantly slash the overall smoking rate, and argues that expanding public access to vaping will help achieve this goal.

Health officials in the country hope to bring the smoking rate down from 15.5 percent to 12 percent by the end of 2022. The report states that the government wants to “minimize the risk of harm” to the smoker and those around them by “maximizing the availability of safer alternatives to smoking.”

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Steve Birr

Contributor

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