ST. LOUIS (CBS St. Louis) – New research has found that smokers are at a higher risk for committing suicide.

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that smokers have two to four times higher risk for suicide than non-smokers, CBS News reports.

“It is an open question whether smoking is a direct risk factor for poor mental health outcomes, and by extension, suicide,” the  researchers wrote in their study. “If so, this would have significant implications for public health and clinical practice because it would establish smoking as a common and modifiable risk factor for suicide. In this case, more effective tobacco control policies and other smoking interventions could be promising means for suicide risk mitigation.”

Data from the National Center for Health Statistics across all 50 states was analyzed by researchers. They found that each dollar increase in cigarette taxes could reduce suicide risk by as much as 10 percent. States that adopted strict tobacco control policies from 1990 to 2004 saw a decrease in suicide rates as well.

A 6 percent increase in suicide occurred in states with lower excise taxes on cigarettes and fewer laws on smoking in public spaces during that same time period.

“Nicotine is a plausible candidate for explaining the link between smoking and suicide risk,” Dr. Richard Grucza, lead author of the paper, said in a statement. “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.”

Other studies have suggested that people who smoke regularly are more likely to have psychiatric disorders or abuse substances like drugs or alcohol.

It’s estimated that roughly 42.1 million people in the U.S. smoke regularly, which is about 18 percent of the general population.

The study is published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco.

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