Journalism Science

Smoking: A Mental Health Problem?

Smoking has been romanticized by the creative, television, and film industries. Smokers are often portrayed as good looking individuals who are charming, intelligent, and independent. Little is ever shown when it comes to chest imaging, the real repercussions of addiction and substance dependency; and the potential health complications such lifestyles could have. When it comes to forensic mental health, nicotine addiction can be considered as a form of self-harm. With a tremendous number of anti-smoking campaigns taking place globally, through which the effects of smoking are disseminated to nicotine consumers through the packaging of the product and through health services; it is understandable why smoking is now seen as a mental health problem and a maladaptive manifestation where the smokers, despite having awareness of the fact that tobacco has over 70 substances known to cause respiratory complications as well as cancer; exhibit addiction determinism when they choose to self-poison.

Doctors have found themselves in difficult positions when it comes to this particular form of self-harm and morbid maladjustment. “Pressures must be placed on governments […] Also, initiatives to make smoking an antisocial, unacceptable activity must be pursued to reduce the likelihood that smoking will be adopted by those predisposed to nicotine addiction, as well as those not predisposed […] With knowledge about the addictive potential of nicotine and the genetic predisposition to become addicted to nicotine, we can now be confident that the days of the authoritarian doctor are over. It is now no longer acceptable that a doctor simply demands that patients stop smoking before they receive further treatment. Smoking, and attempts to quit smoking, need to be regarded as conditions that require specific treatment. Not only do we have to ask all of our patients whether they smoke, and not only do we have to encourage all our smokers to quit smoking, we have to do it with the same clinical care and skill that we use to treat all diseases and health complaints in our patients” (Worsnop, 2003, p. 1339)

As someone who understands nicotine addiction, I have at times wondered why the product itself remains legal. Surely, that’s a truly genocidal industry which profits from the death and lack of self-control of its consumers. Furthermore, considering the fact that smokers are often people who do not understand the theoretical implications of smoking, and the potential respiratory prognosis of such habit; it can be said that all smokers are vulnerable individuals who are being neglected by the legislature and the jurisdiction they are a part of, and that such ignorance can easily become their funeral.


Worsnop, C. J. (2003) ‘Smoking’, Chest, 123(5), pp. 1338–1340. doi: 10.1378/chest.123.5.1338.


Smoking (PDF)


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