A Worldwide Campaign to Stop Smoking
About a year ago I wrote about some of the issues surrounding smoking and schizophrenia; how the rate of smoking in people with this illness is almost double the general population and how nicotine may actually impact how antipsychotic medications work. Well, recently the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a partnership with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have made a combined commitment of $500 million dollars to fight tobacco use worldwide. The focus is primarily in developing countries, but this news has reinforced what a public health concern smoking is.
One of the initial main goals of the project will be to encourage the adoption of the MPOWER package created by the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the WHO, the MPOWER report is the first comprehensive analysis of tobacco use and control efforts worldwide. The voluminous report of this project provides a number of disturbing statistics, including noting that tobacco use is a risk factor in 6 leading causes of death in the world. Also, the report notes that of the 1 billion people who are smokers in 2008, one third to one half of these people will die as a consequence of smoking.
A major focus of the MPOWER's six strategies to fight tobacco use (Monitor, Protect, Offer, Warn, Enforce, Raise) happens and the government and public health level, but three of the strategies can happen at the individual level: protecting people from tobacco smoke, finding ways to help people quit, and educating people about the risks associated with tobacco use.
Even though smoking is much more common in people with schizophrenia, it is a worldwide threat, and I think it's great that Bill Gates chose to focus on fighting tobacco as one of his first major initiatives since retiring from his daily duties at Microsoft on June 27th. It can be very challenging living every day with a serious psychotic disorder, and I have heard many patients tell me that smoking offers them some relief and relaxation, however it is much healthier to try to find other ways to alleviate stress and relax. What I hope comes across from this entry is that smoking is a very real and dangerous habit, and there is now a worldwide initiative to foster smoking cessation because it is so important to health. Both your family physician and psychiatrist are great resources for options for quitting smoking. I would be interested in hearing about people's efforts to quit smoking, particularly what medications or groups people living with schizophrenia have tried. I would especially welcome stories of people with this illness who have quit, and how they did it.