Smoking Actually Increase Risk of Mental Health Problems - Study

It has long been known that smoking is more common among people with mental health conditions. However, it has been unclear whether smoking could be a factor in causing such problems. However, new research (by the University of Bristol, UK) into smoking and stress has shown that instead of helping people to relax, smoking actually increases the risk of mental health problems.

Those living with mental health problems need to be extremely careful, although many people with mental health problems say that they smoke to reduce their symptoms, the truth is, they usually start smoking before their problems begin. Heavy smoking does not necessarily lead to fewer symptoms of mental health problems in the long term, it worsens it. Any short term benefits that smoking seems to have are outweighed by the higher rates of smoking-related physical health problems, such as lung cancer, that are common in people with mental health problems.

Dr Robyn Wootton, the first author of the research, from the University of Bristol said, "if [smoking] is also making the risk of mental illness worse then we should be helping individuals who have existing mental health problems to stop as well,” 

The Smoking Habits of Nigerian Youths

The effects of smoking on Nigerian Youths are worth considering judging by the alarming number of youths that are already addicted to smoking. Research by Godwin Jiya Gana pointed out that tobacco smoking prevalence of between 3.4% and 17.1% [9-12]. The prevalence among secondary school students is approximately 9% [13] with a mean lifetime smoking prevalence of 7.2% to 42.9%.  

Smoking is a habit that becomes an addiction in a short time. The biological factors involved in smoking relate to how the brain responds to nicotine. When a person smokes, a dose of nicotine reaches the brain within about ten seconds. At first, nicotine improves mood and concentration, decreases anger and stress, relaxes muscles and reduces appetite.

Regular doses of nicotine lead to changes in the brain, which then lead to nicotine withdrawal symptoms when the supply of nicotine decreases. Smoking temporarily reduces these withdrawal symptoms and can, therefore, reinforce the habit. This cycle is how most smokers become nicotine dependent (addicted to smoking).

Dr Ian Hamilton, an expert in addiction and mental health from the University of York, said: “While the physical harms of smoking are well known, this research points to the mental health risks of using tobacco. This risk should be communicated widely but particularly to school-age children who might be tempted to try smoking.”

Multiple levels of influence i.e individual, interpersonal, community have been found to affect behaviour change, especially amongst adolescents.

One common factor that operates at all these levels of influence is psycho-social behaviour, whether in the forms of personal beliefs, opinions, subjective norms, or social norms. 

This suggests that perceptions about smokers (at the personal, interpersonal and community levels) constitute one of the factors that may influence adolescents to adopt or reject smoking behaviour.

The effort of the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health to discourage people from smoking is obvious. In every cigarette pack, in digital adverts and posters, the message has become an anthem. "The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young". The message is clear enough for anyone to see to understand the dangers of smoking. However, there is still a lot of effort needed to discourage both the young and old from smoking.