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Primary care urged to help smokers with mental health conditions


Health professionals are being asked to encourage smokers to try a New Year quit attempt which could improve both their mental and overall health.

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) has produced five videos of people sharing their quit smoking journey, to show that stopping smoking while experiencing a mental health condition can be done.

The videos can be viewed in conjunction with a case study in the PCRS Tobacco Dependency Guide which explores the treatment choices that can be prescribed in primary care for a different ‘smoker types’ including a 25-year-old man with a serious mental illness.

Nearly a third of smokers in the UK have a mental health condition and a similar proportion of adults with a mental health condition smoke – this is substantially higher than the rate among the general population. 

Smoking is also associated with an increased risk of major depression and other mental health conditions, and there is strong evidence that smoking could be a cause of mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia.

ASH says that often people with mental health conditions are discouraged from trying to quit smoking by health professionals. Yet smoking is the largest single contributor to the 10-20 year reduction in life expectancy among people with mental health conditions compared to the population as a whole.  

It adds that there is also good evidence showing people should try and quit smoking if they have a mental health condition, and the New Year is a good time to set quitting as a personal goal to improve health.

Noel Baxter, PCRS Policy Lead says:  “We have made great progress over the last decade in further reducing the burden of tobacco on health in the general population but we have made almost no impact on those with mental illness in comparison.

“We tend to think it’s “too hard” or “it’s too low down on the list of issues people with severe mental illness have” and we still see prescribers declining to prescribe the stop smoking pharmacotherapy that is an essential part of a treatment for tobacco dependency.

“Do look at these videos and challenge your current assumptions and try a new approach in 2020”

The videos, co-produced by the University of Bath and the University of York are available at: