Figures show that one third of cigarettes in England are smoked by people suffering from mental health problems like stress and depression. While smoking in the general population has fallen significantly over the last 20 years, there has been very little change to the smoking habits of people with mental health problems.
Prof John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control Studies at the University of Nottingham and report chairman said there seemed to be a culture in some mental health services that made it acceptable to smoke: “The patients are seen as having a hard time and are ill so they need a cigarette and it is also a way for staff to build relationships and so they end up facilitating smoking breaks, finding time to supervise people who want to go outside to smoke, rather than spending resources on helping them to stop.”
He explained that while smoking may seem to help with emotional problems initially, in the long term they only cause health problems and ultimately worsen the patient’s situation.
Mental health patients often want to stop smoking as much as anybody else but because they tend to rely more on cigarettes for relief from their experiences, the process of giving up can be more of a struggle.
The report explained that smoking cessation treatments, such as nicotine replacement therapy (patches, e-cigarettes, chewing gum etc.) are less effective because some mental health conditions call for higher doses or ‘more intensive support’.
The Department of Mental health has said it is committed to tackling this issue in the future, but that it is a difficult issue that needs further research.
To find out how counselling can help fight smoking addiction while addressing underlying mental health problems, please visit our Smoking page. If you think you might have a mental health problem, please visit our page about Mental Health for information about spotting signs and getting help.
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