5 Myths About Smoking and Mental Illness

Pat Salber

First posted 7/27/11 on The Doctor Weighs In

Judith Prochaska has written a very interesting commentary about smoking and mental illness that appeared in the July 21, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).   The point of the article is that we in the health professions have failed to aggressively address smoking in people with mental illness.  She posits that it is because of five prevailing myths about smoking and mental illness.  She provides evidence to dispel those myths in every instance.

Myth #1:   Tobacco is a useful self-medication for people with mental illness

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that our friends in Big Tobacco have played a role in promulgating this myth by funding research and presentations supporting this hypothesis.  In fact, the industry has a long and rich historyof manipulating research to reach its goal of selling more and more cigarettes to more and more people.  One of industry’s main strategies was to create confusion to counter the increasing body of evidence about tobacco’s adverse health impact.  Just read this quote from a 1969 Brown and Williamson document:

“Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the ‘body of fact’ that exists in the mind of the general public….”

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