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The nicotine in cigarettes might raise the risk of suicide, researchers reported Wednesday in a finding that defies conventional wisdom. Health experts have long known that smokers are far more likely to commit suicide than non-smokers. But they thought that was because people with mental illness such as depression are also more likely to smoke. A new study in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research finds that when states made it a lot harder to smoke in public, suicide rates declined by a startling 15 percent.
“Our analysis showed that each dollar increase in cigarette taxes was associated with a 10 percent decrease in suicide risk,” said Richard Grucza, associate professor of psychiatry at Washington University in St. Louis. “Indoor smoking bans also were associated with risk reductions.” States with more relaxed smoking policies saw suicide rates go up by 6 percent between 1990 and 2004, Grucza said. Nicotine might be to blame, he said — and that raises concerns about e-cigarettes. “Like any other addicting drug, people start using nicotine to feel good, but eventually they need it to feel normal. And as with other drugs, that chronic use can contribute to depression or anxiety, and that could help to explain the link to suicide,” Grucza said.
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— Maggie Fox