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Vape study shows e-cigs can help patients with mental health issues

There is a certain societal stigma applied to people suffering from mental health issues, and the same can be said for those who engage in vaping.  Meanwhile, many might be surprised to learn that smoking tobacco is far more prevalent in mentally challenged patients as compared to the general population.  So, what are doctors to do? 

Should physicians allow their mentally ill patients to continue smoking?  Should they encourage them to quit?  Or should the recommend a scientifically proven healthier alternative like e-cigs?

So why do the mentally ill tend to smoke?  Experts say that the reasons have a common thread.  Smoking helps the mentally challenged to manage stress levels better, which lessens the associated symptoms pertaining to their mental disorder.  Anyone who prefers vaping to the cold-turkey method of quitting smoking will easily identify with this concept.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is always evaluating the percentage of smokers with individual mental health issues, and the organization is always looking for more effective ways to help them quit.  According to the agency’s published data, approximately 41% of the mentally ill are smokers, compared to about 17.8% of the U.S. population overall. 

Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) estimates that more than one-third of all cigarettes purchased in the United States are consumed by the mentally challenged.  The NAMI also estimates the following groups of patients to smoke at the below rates.

  • Bipolar Disorder: 70%
  • Schizophrenia: 90%
  • Depression: 60%
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): 60%
  • Panic Disorder: 56%

While many vapers might view some of the above listed mental disorders are somewhat rare, others stand out as rather common.  Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that approximate 18% of the U.S. population suffer from anxiety disorders and another 16.1 million Americans suffer from chronic depression.  A vape study conducted by researchers from the South London and Maudsley (SLaM) National Health Service Foundation Trust suggests that transition to vaping can help.

Overview of the SLaM vape study

The SLaM scientists conducted 35 different tests involving nearly 24,000 patients.  Each test also lasted several years.  The objective was to determine if switching to vaping would decrease anxiety levels, occurrences of physical assaults, and other mental heal symptoms as compared to quitting smoking the old-fashioned way. 

  • 35 individual studies were conducted involving 23,972 patients in total.
  • 17% of patient had previous histories of physical violence.
  • The study lasted from 30-months prior to the vaping transition to 12-months afterward.
  • 4,500 physical assault on healthcare staff were documented before the study began between 2014 and 2015. 
  • After transitioning to vaping and a smoke-free environment, physical altercations reduced by 39%.
  • Only 4.9% of physical altercations were associated with withdrawal symptoms traditionally associated with quitting smoking.

According to Dr. Judith Prochaska of Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center, many people suffering from mental health issues smoke as a way to mask their associated symptoms.  For example, those suffering from anxiety related disorders tend to smoke as a means of reducing the possibilities of future panic attacks.  And since nicotine is scientifically proven to enhance concentration and attention capabilities, vaping nicotine enhanced e-liquids that are free of the thousands of toxins found in combustible cigarettes is a substantially better alternative. 

The study entitled Effect of implementation of a smoke-free policy on physical violence in a psychiatric inpatient setting: an interrupted time series analysis is readily available on The Lancet Psychiatry website. 


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