Mental Health and Smoking Cessation

Smoking rates among people with a mental health condition are significantly higher than in the general population. 

Research has also found that individuals with mental health issues who smoke are more likely to smoke heavily and extract more nicotine from each cigarette compared to people who smoke who do not have a mental health condition.

The aim of this study was to examine whether there are differences by mental health status in: 

(i) triggers for quit attempts,

(ii) use of evidence-based support

(iii) and quit success.

The researchers analysed self-reported data that was collected through monthly cross-sectional household surveys of representative samples of the population of adults in England.

Some of the key findings from the study were:

  • The three most frequently reported triggers for people deciding to quit smoking were ‘concern about future health’, ‘health problems I had at the time’ and ‘a decision that smoking was too expensive’.
  • People who reported mental health issues were more likely to select ‘health problems I had at the time’ as a reason for attempting to quit smoking.
  • Smokers with mental health problems were more likely to have used evidence-based support in the form of prescription medication or behavioural support.
  • The most popular support used was non-evidence-based, followed by e-cigarettes.
  • E-cigarettes were linked with increased success and were used similarly by those with and without mental health problems.

These results can be used to help tailor interventions that meet the needs of individuals with mental health issues who want support to quit smoking. Practitioners should use the feedback to guide their planning and responses.

Brose, L.S., Brown, J. & McNeill, A. Mental health and smoking cessation—a population survey in England. BMC Med 18, 161 (2020).