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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Report links smoking bans, cigarettes taxes to lower suicide rates

By Marjorie Cortez, Deseret News

Published: Sun, July 27 5:58 p.m. MDT

 A new report published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research says states that have imposed higher cigarette taxes and banned smoking indoors had lower adjusted suicide rates than states with fewer anti-smoking initiatives.

A new report published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research says states that have imposed higher cigarette taxes and banned smoking indoors had lower adjusted suicide rates than states with fewer anti-smoking initiatives.

(Wavebreakmedia Ltd, Getty Images/Wavebreak Media)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah mental health and public health officials say a new report that links stronger anti-smoking initiatives to lower suicide rates suggests an added benefit of states' prevention and cessation efforts.

The report, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, found that public health interventions, such as raising cigarette taxes and imposing indoor smoking bans, could reduce risk of suicide by as much as 15 percent.

Janae Duncan, coordinator of the Utah Health Department's Tobacco Prevention and Control Program, said Utah's Indoor Clean Air Act "is really strong."

While the state's rate of adult smoking of 10.6 percent is the lowest in the nation, Utah's tobacco taxes are relatively low at $1.70 per pack of cigarettes, Duncan said. Utah's rate is higher than the national average but well below the rates of some East Coast states such as New York, which imposes a tax of $4.35 per pack.

"The study said each dollar increase in cigarette taxes was associated with a 10 percent decrease in (the relative risk of) suicide," she said. "Even though we have a low tobacco use rate, it may be a good reason to look at raising our excise tax for tobacco."

Other Utah officials say the report lends credence to mental health and substance abuse treatment practices that encourage wellness across the spectrum.

The state's 2013 Recovery Plus initiative, for instance, required all publicly funded substance abuse and mental health treatment facilities to be tobacco free by March 2013.

"When we first started talking about doing this, there was a lot of talk such as, 'You can't expect someone with substance abuse or mental illness to also give that up. It's too much on a person.' They found that's not the case. It actually helps with their recovery," said Teresa Brechlin, coordinator in the Utah Department of Health's Violence and Injury Prevention Program.

Kim Myers, suicide prevention coordinator with the Utah Division of Substance Abuse and Mental Health, said Utah officials have long observed that clients in publicly funded substance abuse and mental health facilities smoke at substantially higher rates than the general population.

The authors of the report noted that clinical and general studies have likewise documented elevated rates of smoking among people with anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug dependence, and schizophrenia, among other diagnoses.

“However, it is also possible that smoking is not merely a marker for psychiatric disorders, but rather directly increases the risk for such disorders, which in turn increases the risk for suicide," the study's authors wrote.

Myers said the study raises the question whether nicotine itself raises suicide risk.

"How do we use that information on a population level, but also on an individual level, to reduce someone’s risk, especially when it comes to people who have some of those other risks such as serious mental illness or substance use disorders?" she asked.

The study also determined that smokers' risk for suicide is two to four times greater than nonsmokers.

Duncan said more research is needed to understand how the link applies to Utah. Utah's suicide rate has been consistently higher than the national rate for the past decade, according to state health department statistics, while smoking rates are very low.

"The study doesn't give those clear answers. I think what it does do, it helps us see we should be looking at whole health, and it’s important to look at it across the board, not just issue by issue, but how all these things are tying together," Duncan said.

* * *

Need help?

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 800-273-8255. For a list of crisis hotlines in your area, visit dsamh.utah.gov/crisis-hotlines-2/.

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com

Recommended
1. Hutterite
American Fork, UT,
July 27, 2014

Works for drinking and driving, too. Yet strangely no tax, ban or restriction works with guns.

2. Midvaliean
MIDVALE, UT,
July 27, 2014

So this is interesting, but a bit of a stretch. Surely there is no direct link.

3. JayTee
Sandy, UT,
July 27, 2014

"Report Links Cloudy Full-Moon Nights to Water Shortages" could be a comparative headline. Once again, correlation doesn't automatically mean causation. No doubt smoking tobacco is a very dangerous and deleterious activity, but I'm not sure we need Super Nanny drawing rash conclusions and justifying even more government intervention and control over our lives.

4. Jazzsmack
Holladay, UT,
July 27, 2014

Sounds like more climate science from the left,

not!

Does the left really believe in science or just their beliefs?

Of course this grounded in real science.

When person participates in addictive and destructive behaviors they will be far more likely to commit suicide or attempt it.

It is not just science it is common sense

5. DN Subscriber
Cottonwood Heights, UT,
July 27, 2014

Correlation is not causation.

This is a classic example of junk science being used to push an agenda.

Just because a source reports something, that does not mean it is valid, or newsworthy, or worth repeating in the Deseret News.