Advice Update to Mental Health Organisations

Posted 12th March 2020 by Dave Cross
Through Public Health England, the UK government has released an advice update about the use of vaping in mental health settings. The guidelines for mental health organisations were released in conjunction with the latest government update on vaping last week. The advice mirrors a lot of that already given by The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership.

PHE says: “E-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers to quit, especially when combined with behavioural support. E-cigarettes are not covered by smokefree legislation and there is no evidence that passive exposure can cause harm other than to people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.”

1 in 3 cigarettes is smoked by a person with a mental health condition, so supporting them to stop smoking must be the overriding priority

The government’s instruction to institutions is clear: “You should base policies about vaping on evidence of relative harm compared with smoking, and e-cigarettes’ role in supporting smokers to quit or stop during their inpatient care. This includes designating areas within the hospital grounds and buildings where e-cigarette use is allowed or prohibited.”

“We expect NHS trusts and service providers to review local policies and adopt the recommendations unless there are valid evidence-based reasons not to. This might include setting proportionate and justifiable restrictions to improve security and safety in some secure and longer-stay mental health services. This advice can also support wider NHS trust action for achieving smokefree status. There should be no new costs to trusts from implementing this advice.”

ASH Webinar - The use of e-cigarettes among people with a mental health condition

The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership says [link]:

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  • E-cigarettes are substantially less harmful to health than cigarettes
  • They do not contain or burn tobacco, meaning they do not produce carbon monoxide, tar or many of the other harmful chemicals found in tobacco smoke and to date, there have been no identified health risks to bystanders
  • Based on the available evidence it is likely that e-cigarettes are substantially less harmful than cigarettes
  • If people wish to quit smoking using an e-cigarette, they should be given evidence-based information about their relative safety and should be offered specialist support to switch
  • For anyone who smokes, switching completely to vaping will ensure the greatest reduction in harm and deliver most benefit to health
  • For data recording purposes, a person who has stopped smoking completely and switched to vaping is classified as a non-smoker
  • Switching from smoking to vaping could save people around £700 a year


  • E-cigarettes: use by patients in NHS mental health organisations, PHE – [link]
  • Use of electronic cigarettes by people with mental health problems: A guide for health professionals, Smokefree Action – [link]

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker
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