As part of the Healthy Body Healthy Mind Awards we work with ASH Scotland to support universities and colleges in working towards smoke free events, smoke free campuses and signposting to better help for students who want to stop smoking.
Smoke free campuses means a healthier learning environment for everyone with the numerous physical health benefits being evident for non-smokers vs smokers. What we don’t often talk about however is the links between smoking, smoking cessation and mental health.
Those who experience mental illness are much more likely to smoke than the general population with ASH Scotland suggesting that people with mental illnesses may account for more than a third of the tobacco smoked in the UK.
It is also thought that these same people will smoke more per day, be more addicted to nicotine and find it harder to quit. The evidence suggest however that they will usually still want to quit.
ASH also believe that smoking could be one of the most common preventable causes of death for people with mental illness.
In their report Smoking and mental health: A neglected epidemic, ASH Scotland explain that there is a common misconception that nicotine relives anxiety, stress and low mood. The process is actually more complex. Regular use of nicotine creates a cycle of pleasure, reward and withdrawal. When nicotine first reaches your brain it activates the areas of the brain related to pleasure and rewards. However, this is quickly replaced by nicotine withdrawal, creating a nicotine-dependency and cycle of smoking.
This cycle can be difficult to break but smoking cessation services are available for free across the UK. Quitting smoking can be a stressful time for many and it is thought extra support for those with mental illnesses is important as, in the short term, there may be issues relating to mood and stress management.
The Scottish Government aims to make Scotland smoke free by 2034 with a focus on smoking cessation and smoking prevention. There is evidence that stopping smoking is associated with improvements in depression, anxiety, stress, psychological quality of life, and positive affect compared with continuing to smoke.
If you would like to find out more about how your university or college can get involved in the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Awards then please email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
You can also find out more about smoking prevention, cessation and how to organise smoke-free events by contacting ASH Scotland.