A recent study published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research showed that cigarettes smokers are more likely to commit suicide that non-smokers. It also found that when tobacco policies such as cigarette taxes and smoke-free air policies are strengthened, suicide rates tend to go down
The research was conducted by Dr. Richard Grucza and his team at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“These policies differ state by state so we were able to compare policies and suicide rates across states at different times,” said Dr. Grucza.
States with higher taxes on cigarettes and stricter smoke-free policies have lower suicide rates than others. Those policies are ways to improve public health and get people to smoke less.
The analysis was conducted by comparing suicide records in every state in the country between 1990 and 2004, with information about the smoking related policies in those states. Dr. Grucza said the results suggest that smoking increases the risk of suicide.
“It really suggests that smoking itself is a direct risk factor because if smoking was simply a marker for suicide risk, then the policies wouldn’t have any effect on people’s individual suicide risk,” added Dr. Grucza.
He said researchers have known for a long time that smoking was related to suicide but not that it was increasing risk for suicide or contributing to it.
Smokers’ suicide risk is affected by tobacco policies. According to the research, getting people to stop smoking or preventing them from it seems to reduce their risk for suicide.
Generally speaking, suicide is a result of a psychiatric disorder like severe depression, and it appears from this study that smoking seems to increase the risk for psychiatric disorders or can make it more severe. For Dr. Grucza, nicotine could explain the link between smoking and suicide risk because smokers first use it to feel good but then need it in order to feel normal.
“We need more research into the effects of nicotine and that’s especially important because of the rise of electronic cigarettes,” Dr. Gruzca said. “Even though people are starting to quit smoking in greater numbers, people are still using nicotine in pretty high levels.”
Besides understanding more how nicotine might affect mental health, the researcher said this study also underlines the need for effective smoking decision programs in mental health clinics, because if smoking was thought to help their mood, it turns out it might not be so good for mental health disorders after all.