A new study released by the Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry discusses the benefits of vaping for smokers with severe mental illness (SMI). It provides a fresh perspective on how legalising vaping in Australia could significantly improve the physical health of patients with SMI, who have ‘a reduced life expectancy by 15-20 years compared to the general population.’ The authors then added that ‘smoking is leading cause of this health gap.’
This study sheds light on how vaping can be assistance to all types of smokers, and is a huge step forward in debunking anti-vaping myths.
SMI sufferers are just as motivated to quit, the authors point out, however it is more difficult for them due to a range of factors closely linked with their mental illnesses – ranging from bipolar to schizophrenia:
“…quit rates are low in this population due to a range of factors, including heavier smoking, more severe nicotine dependence, the beneficial effects of nicotine, comorbid substance use and environmental and social factors that reinforce smoking.”
Apart from the obvious physical long-term health benefits e-cigarettes can deliver to SMI patients, the researchers point out that vaping can directly assist in improving mental health for people with specific conditions. Specifically, ‘switching from smoking to e-cigarettes can also enable a reduction in the dose of some antipsychotic medications, notably clozapine and olanzapine’ – the latter of which is commonly associated with weight gain and lethargy.
The current laws and lack of access to nicotine liquids are not only dangerous for groups like patients with SMI, but are unethical. Restricting access to nicotine liquids through nanny state regulations and excessive red tape is simply unconscionable. To legalise vaping would be a huge step forward for significantly disadvantaged individuals in society, particularly those with SMI. These are people who often suffer from a lack of support, guidance and counselling which could give them a higher quality of life. E-cigarettes are especially ideal for this group because:
“All smokers with SMI should be advised to stop smoking using approved medications first such as nicotine replacement therapy, varenicline or bupropion in combination with behavioural counselling and support. More intensive and longer courses of treatment are recommended in this population.”
When experts, researchers and academics consistently support something that could only be good for smokers’ physical and mental health, especially for society’s truly vulnerable, it’s time to listen. The TGA in particular needs to stop sticking its head in the san so they can finally implement a sensible policy that will literally save thousands of lives. What are they waiting for?
The ATA encourages everyone to read the full study – the evidence is clear and very heavily supported by doctors, academics and any group who still cares about facts, evidence and the health of smokers.
Read the full study here.
Marija Polic is a Research Associate at the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance