ASH Scotland, the independent Scottish charity taking action to reduce the harm caused by tobacco, worked with VHS during April-May 2015 on an area of mutual interest: mental health. VHS agreed to distribute to its membership an ASH Scotland survey which asked about organisational experiences and views of smoking/tobacco-related work.
This small survey was intended to establish what, if any, smoking- and tobacco-related work has been, is being, or could be done by voluntary health organisations. It was particularly interested to hear from organisations whose remit includes supporting those with mental health issues.
Impact of tobacco/smoking on client group
A majority of the 49 respondents thought that smoking/using tobacco was impacting on the physical health and wellbeing of their clients/service users, with 70% also believing that it was reducing the available disposable income of their clients. This is of particular concern, since people who live in areas of economic deprivation are more likely to be smokers and to smoke more than those living in affluent areas, and to spend a higher proportion of their total income on tobacco products, all of which compound existing inequalities.
According to ASH Scotland:
‘Smoking rates amongst people with a mental health disorder are significantly higher than in the general population and there is growing evidence to show a strong association between smoking and mental health disorders. This association becomes stronger relative to the severity of the mental disorder, with the highest levels of smoking found in psychiatric in-patients. It is estimated that of the 10 million smokers in the UK about 3 million have a mental disorder.’
Read the survey findings here: Findings of a mental health and smoking survey of the voluntary sector June 2015