TALLAHASSEE — Each year, Tobacco Free Florida announces Tobacco Free Florida Week as the beginning of an initiative focusing on a major public health issue connected to tobacco use. This year, Tobacco Free Florida Week’s theme is “Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth: Overcoming the Influences of Tobacco on the Mind.” Tobacco Free Florida Week will be observed May 8-14, 2022, and is timed to align with Mental Health Awareness Month.
Tobacco Free Florida is using “Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth” to address and correct misconceptions, including that tobacco provides an alternative when people feel stressed or anxious. Part of this traces back to decades ago, with tobacco companies marketing heavily to those with mental health issues and promoting myths and falsehoods about supposed health benefits of tobacco use.
This year’s theme highlights the fact that tobacco and nicotine use can lead to negative health consequences among individuals with mental and/or behavioral health conditions. People with behavioral health conditions die about five years earlier than people without such conditions, and more than 50% of these deaths are from tobacco-related diseases.
On a positive note, when people diagnosed with mental or behavioral health issues quit smoking, they are also more likely to avoid other drugs and harmful substances.
“We chose the theme Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth: Overcoming the Influences of Tobacco on the Mind because there’s so much, we can do together to help bring awareness to the links between tobacco use and mental health. This will go a long way in helping our friends, loved ones, and neighbors.” said Jah-Naika Lopez, Senior Health Educator for the Tobacco Prevention Program. “This means becoming educated and getting involved.”
Smoking can exacerbate mental health symptoms and complicate treatment. This can include interfering with the medications often associated with mental and behavioral health treatments. Public health officials across Florida are using the occasion of Tobacco