Professor Tom Heffernan, programme leader for psychology with criminology at Northumbria University has co-authored a paper with a doctoral researcher, Anna-Marie Marshall. They begin by pointing out the accepted fact that a long-term smoker is between two to three times more likely to die earlier than a comparative individual who has never smoked.
As well as the list of cancers and cardio-vascular problems associated with smoking, it also causes “complications in pregnancy, low sperm count in men, oral problems, and increased likelihood of cataracts”. They offer up the incredible fact that smoking causes more deaths per year in the United States than “HIV, illegal drug use, alcohol misuse, motor vehicle injuries and homicides combined”.
Their study highlights how those suffering from mental illness tend towards a high reliance on self-medication through alcohol and tobacco but, for the first time, they illustrate a causal link between the use of the two substances and impaired mental health.
Quitting smoking improves health and leads to improvements in cognition. This may be linked to an increase in the thickness of the brain’s cortex – the outer layer of the brain which plays a critical role in information processing and memory. The cortex naturally thins with age, but smoking can worsen this effect causing the cortex to thin at an accelerated rate.”
Vaping has a part to play in this: “The use of e-cigarettes over smoking tobacco recently has been found to improve everyday prospective memory (memory for future activities)”.
Coupled with this paper comes results from the British Thoracic Society’s national paediatric asthma audit. In its analysis of children presenting at hospitals with symptoms of asthma, they discovered that a third of them had experienced environmental tobacco smoke (cigarette smoke in the home) immediately beforehand.
Deborah Arnott, representing the Action on Smoking and Health, said: “This study highlights the importance of making homes smoke-free since that is where children are most likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke, which can trigger asthma attacks. Health professionals need to do more to inform parents of the health risks of second-hand smoke, particularly to their children, and also to support parents who smoke to quit.”
There has not been a reliable study that proves vape has similar detrimental effects on family members in the home.