Watch: A Documentary About Schizophrenia and Vaping

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    Does anyone care that people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders have devastatingly high rates of smoking?

    Research has found the prevalence to be “at least two to three times that in the general population,” with rates in some study cohorts exceeding 80 percent. Estimates are even higher than for people with other mental health diagnoses and other vulnerable populations.

    “People with schizophrenia die not from schizophrenia, but from smoking. People with schizophrenia can improve their quality of life and there is a solution,” Dr. Pasquale Caponetto, a clinical psychologist at the University of Catania in Italy, told us in our new documentary.

    He and his colleagues have been conducting a groundbreaking study called the Genesis Trial, investigating the effectiveness of nicotine vapes as an intervention for people with schizophrenia who smoke.

    We want our documentary to be a catalyst for change.

    To make Switch? A Documentary About Smoking and Schizophrenia, Marilena Marchetti and I traveled to Sicily to interview people involved in the study.

    At Villa Chiara and Casa Famiglia, two psychiatric residential programs, we spoke with residents to see if they liked vaping and if they were making the switch to the Juul devices that researchers provided for free. We interviewed staff who support the study and believe in tobacco harm reduction. And we went swimming in the Ionian Sea with Casa Famiglia residents, and ate the best pizza of our lives!

    This cutting-edge research has the potential to end the suffering, disease, disability and premature death that smoking causes among people with schizophrenia.

    We want our documentary, which you can watch above, to be a catalyst for change. The end goal is for health care providers, mental health organizations and public health agencies to adopt tobacco harm reduction approaches for people with any psychiatric diagnosis.

    The switch from smoking to vaping is truly la dolce vita



    The Influence Foundation (TIF), which operates Filter, has received grants from Juul Labs, Inc., which makes the vapes used in the study. Both TIF and the Center of Excellence for the Acceleration of Harm Reduction at the University of Catania, founded by study investigator Dr. Riccardo Polosa, have received grants from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World. The documentary was funded by a scholarship from Knowledge-Action-Change, which has also provided restricted grants and donations to TIF. Filter’s Editorial Independence Policy applies.

    • Helen is Filter‘s senior editor and a multimedia journalist. She is on the methadone, vaping and nicotine train. Helen is also a filmmaker. Her two documentaries about methadone are Liquid Handcuffs and Swallow THIS. As an LCSW, she has worked with people who use drugs for over two decades. Helen is an adjunct assistant professor and teaches a course about the War on Drugs at NYU. She lives in Harlem.

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