Framing tobacco dependence as a “brain disease”: implications for policy and practice

Morphett, Kylie, Carter, Adrian, Hall, Wayne and Gartner, Coral (2017) Framing tobacco dependence as a “brain disease”: implications for policy and practice. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 19 7: 774-780. doi:10.1093/ntr/ntx006

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Author Morphett, Kylie
Carter, Adrian
Hall, Wayne
Gartner, Coral
Title Framing tobacco dependence as a “brain disease”: implications for policy and practice
Journal name Nicotine and Tobacco Research   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1462-2203
1469-994X
Publication date 2017-01-21
Year available 2017
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1093/ntr/ntx006
Open Access Status File (Author Post-print)
Volume 19
Issue 7
Start page 774
End page 780
Total pages 7
Place of publication Oxford, United Kingdom
Publisher Oxford University Press
Language eng
Subject 2739 Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
Abstract Like other forms of drug dependence, tobacco dependence is increasingly being described as a "chronic brain disease." The potential consequences of this medical labelling have been examined in relation to other addictions, but the implications for tobacco control have been neglected. Some have posited that biomedical conceptions of addiction will reduce stigma and increase uptake of efficacious treatments. Others have countered that it could increase stigma, reduce treatment seeking, and deter unassisted quitting. We explored how smokers respond to the labelling of smoking as a brain disease.
Formatted abstract
Introduction: Like other forms of drug dependence, tobacco dependence is increasingly being described as a “chronic brain disease.” The potential consequences of this medical labelling has been examined in relation to other addictions, but the implications for tobacco control have been neglected. Some have posited that biomedical conceptions of addiction will reduce stigma and increase uptake of efficacious treatments. Others have countered that it could increase stigma, reduce treatment seeking, and deter unassisted quitting. We explored how smokers respond to the labelling of smoking as a brain disease.

Methods: Semistructured interviews with 29 Australian smokers recruited using purposive sampling. Thematic analysis was used to analyse the results.

Results: Most participants questioned the accuracy of the brain disease label as applied to smoking. They believed that smoking was not a chronic disease because they perceived smoking to be an individual’s choice. In addition, many believed that this label would increase the stigma that they already felt and did not want to adopt a “sick role” in relation to their smoking.

Conclusions: Describing smoking as a brain disease is more likely to alienate smokers than to engage them in quitting. The application of overly medical labels of smoking are inconsistent with smokers own conceptualisations of their smoking, and may have unintended consequences if they are widely disseminated in healthcare settings or anti-smoking campaigns.
Keyword Tobacco
Dependence
Addiction
Brain disease
Conceptualisation
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Grant ID DP120100732
569738
1061978
Institutional Status UQ

 
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Created: Mon, 06 Feb 2017, 21:00:28 EST by Coral Gartner on behalf of School of Public Health