JUNEAU, March 16, 2016The Partnership for a Tobacco-Free Southeast (The Partnership) commends Juneau Alliance for Mental Health Inc.’s (JAMHI) for implementing a tobacco-free workplace policy, which includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). The policy went into effect on “National Kick Butts Day,”Wednesday, March 16, 2016.

JAMHI’s campus-wide tobacco-free policy will reduce the risks from using tobacco products, including risks of fire, “passive smoking” for others, and the possibility of adversely affecting treatment.  

“Leading by example, this policy creates a healthier environment for outpatients, visitors, vendors, and JAMHI staff. While the initial decision to use tobacco is a choice, its continued use is an addiction. As a community program with the mission of helping adults with mental illness live their best lives, JAHMI is making a strong commitment to helping reduce one of the strongest and deadliest addictions. Because secondhand smoke is linked to disease and death, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), a member of The Partnership also applauds this commitment to the entire community,” said Edy Rodewald, SEARHC Tobacco Program Manager.

Tobacco use caused more deaths in Alaska (573) in 2012 than suicide, motor vehicle crashes, liver disease, homicide, HIV/AIDS, and influenza combined. In 2012, tobacco use cost Alaska an estimated $370 million in direct medical expenditures and an additional $231 million in lost productivity due to tobacco-related deaths. This amounts to an astounding $601 million, yet it does not include lost productivity from tobacco-related illness and costs attributed to second-hand smoke exposure-related illness, therefore underestimating the total cost.

Those experiencing mental health disorders are disproportionately impacted by tobacco. They are nicotine dependent at rates 2‐3 times higher than the rest of the population, represent over 44% of the U.S. tobacco market, and consume over 34% of all cigarettes smoked. Interestingly, research tells us 75% want to quit tobacco, and 65% tried to quit in the last 12‐months. However, many mental health program settings continue to support tobacco addiction even though addressing and treating tobacco dependence is consistent with the goals of behavioral health treatment, and staff has the skills they need to treat the addiction. The myth that smoking helps relieve stress was debunked by research that shows tobacco does not alleviate stress, and, in fact, increases it. We also now know that psychiatric symptoms are not exacerbated by quitting smoking. Smoking cessation is associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress. Quitting actually improves positive moods and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke and is true for those with and without psychiatric disorders. Quitting tobacco can even have equivalent to or better results than using antidepressants to treat mood and anxiety disorders – an outcome worth pursuing.