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Vaping ban discriminates against smokers with mental illness

Posted on October 18, 2018

ATHRA director, Stephen Elsom has produced a short film (see below) to highlight the plight of Australian smokers with mental illness who are particularly affected by the ban on nicotine e-liquid for vaping.

Vapers must purchase their nicotine online from overseas vendors. However, people with severe and persistent mental illness often find online shopping difficult or impossible, in some cases because of cognitive deficits but more often because they do not have the necessary resources such as credit card, Paypal account and internet access.

Instead of being given extra support, Australia’s most needy and addicted smokers are being denied access to vaping, a much safer alternative to smoking.

The Nicotine Wars: Vaping and Mental Illness is a short film produced by Dr Natisha Sands and Dr Stephen Elsom to highlight the plight of smokers with mental illness in Australia.  The film premiered in June this year at the Global Forum on Nicotine 2018 Film Festival in Warsaw.

The Nicotine Wars from Light City Films on Vimeo.

People diagnosed with severe and persistent mental illness including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder have a reduced life expectancy of up to 20 years compared to the general population. Much of this mortality gap is attributable to tobacco smoking, which kills up to two in three long-term smokers.

Smoking is two to three times more prevalent among people with mental illness, compared with the general population and almost fivefold greater in schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use disorders. Depression is twice as common in smokers as nonsmokers, and four times as common in heavy smokers. Individuals with mental illness consume nearly half of the cigarettes sold in the United States, with similar estimates of consumption in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.

Australia once led the world in reducing smoking rates through strategies such as public health campaigns, plain packaging and increased tobacco excise (NB Australia has the highest priced tobacco in the world). However, Australia’s quit rates have stalled in recent years and we are falling behind other countries including New Zealand, UK, US and Canada that have embraced tobacco harm reduction (THR) by promoting safer forms of nicotine consumption such as vaping (e-cigarettes).

Vaping has proven to be both acceptable to people with mental illness and effective in supporting smoking cessation in this population group. They have greater difficulty quitting than other smokers and should not be denied this life-saving alternative.

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