A SURVEY on smoking conducted by Support in Mind Scotland has revealed widespread opposition to legislation banning smoking in all NHS grounds, including premises for patients who are detained to receive treatment for mental ill health.

Smoking is now banned in all NHS hospital grounds, health centres and GP surgeries across Scotland. But the tobacco laws and how they affect people's rights continue to polarise opinion.

Members encouraged Support in Mind Scotland to carry out the survey earlier this year, inviting people to express their opinions on smoking and the legislation affecting it. The survey was sent out to members, supporters and staff, and was also extended to people who use our services across Scotland. There were 164 responses.

To access a PDF of the survey click HERE. To access a PDF of the comments we collated click HERE.

The results show that almost two thirds of respondents (62.1 per cent) think an exception should be made for patients detained in psychiatric wards or hospitals.

Eighty per cent of the people who took part in the 6-question survey were non-smokers, while 1 in 5 declared themselves as smokers. Of those who responded, almost 94 per cent believe that people should get more help to stop smoking, but active smokers themselves were closely split on the question 'Do youwant to stop smoking' - 51 per cent answering Yes and 49 per cent No.

Another question which met with a near-equal response was: 'Are you aware that smoking can impact on the effectiveness/safety of some anti-psychotic medication?' A narrow majority (53 per cent) answered Yes, while 47 per cent answered No.

People were also asked whether they believed e-cigarettes or NVPs (nicotine vapour products) are helpful for people who want to give up smoking tobacco. Two thirds (66.4 per cent) answered Yes, and 33.6 per cent said No.

Reacting to the survey results, Frances Simpson, CEO of Support in Mind Scotland, said: "Our survey shows how complex an issue this is. As an organisation we want to encourage individuals to live healthy lives but we believe that until we address the huge inequalities that people face around poverty unemployment and poor physical care we won't tackle this issue effectively."

 

In 2013 the Scottish Government launched a new tobacco control strategy – Creating a Tobacco-Free Generation. The strategy contained a specific action that led to all NHS Boards implementing and enforcing smoke-free grounds by March/April 2015.

The subject of smoking and how it relates to mental health was again discussed last week during the Health Inequalities Conference in Glasggow last week, co-hosted by Support in Mind Scotland and Bipolar Scotland, in partnership with NHS Health Scotland.

Dr Alistair Cook (chairman of the Royal College of Psychiatrists), expressed his personal opinion that much more should be done to combat smoking among people with mental ill health.

"As society in general has moved towards smoking becoming less popular, the proportion of tobacco being used by people experiencing mental health problems has actually gone up. Why is it that smoking interventions are not hitting that group?" asked Dr Cook. 

He added: "Why is it still okay for us to say 'It's his only pleasure to have that cigarette'?' I don't think we do enough to raise hope and expectations.!

However, in his talk, fellow keynote speaker Graham Morgan (HUG - action for mental health) addressed the rights of people with mental ill health.

He told the conference "We are to put it bluntly not very good at keeping fit and healthy and so, in a world where we are used to people lecturing us about our lifestyle it can be very hard to speak out about this issue.

"It is very hard to say this is a huge rights issue for our community if the policy makers turn round and say the solution is really in your hands. And that is why it is hard, that is why our spokespeople can feel awkward when they speak out for our right to smoke when in hospital because that very ideal, that very wish for that freedom could contribute directly to the early death of the huge number of people with schizophrenia who smoke."