A recent study reveals that 27% of UK smokers (1.9 million) say they would like to quit for mental health reasons, compared to just 16% quitting over Covid-19 concerns.
The research highlights the links between smoking and mental health condition and lays bare the impact that the habit can have on smokers’ emotional wellbeing.
66% of the 7.2 million who currently smoke in England said that they believe cigarettes have a negative impact on their mental health, while 11% said they smoke to relieve mental health problems.
The Quitting Smoking for Mental Health study asked over 1,000 current and ex-smokers across the UK was conducted by smoking cessation advocates Vape Club ahead of World Mental Health Day tomorrow (Saturday, 10th October) and the beginning of Stoptober 2020.
Data from Public Health England shows that average smoking prevalence for adults with mental health conditions is 27%, compared with 14% of the general population.
Asking ex-smokers the reason why they quit, 13% said they had stopped for their mental health, ranking higher than for family reasons or for the birth of a child.
Almost half of ex-smokers (44%) said they have noticed an uplift in their mental health since quitting, with 39% noticing a positive improvement in the first four weeks after quitting.
Dan Marchant, director at Vape Club and founding member of the UK Vaping Industry Association, says: “People’s awareness of the link between smoking and poor mental health is clearly on the rise. There’s long been a focus on the physical effects of smoking, but it’s encouraging to see that the serious emotional effects – as well as the additional strain that smoking puts on the NHS mental health services – are being acknowledged too.
“The overall picture of smoking in England is moving in the right direction, but the statistics on smoking prevalence remain worrying, and far more can be done to educate people on cessation tools like vaping that can make a huge difference”.
Ex-smokers surveyed gave the below responses when asked what would have made quitting easier, and it’s clear to see that bans are an effective measure.
These continue to be rolled out, with hospitals recently banning smoking on all premises and proposals to ban smoking areas at pubs, with fines for dropping cigarette butts are shown to be the least effective way.
“Smoking rates for those that suffer with depression are twice as high as those who do not suffer with depression.” says Holly Beedon, the Clinical Lead at Living Well UK. “For those with schizophrenia they are three times more likely to smoke heavily.
“For many people, smoking is a stress relief and you will often hear people say that a cigarette helps them to relax. In actual fact, it increases anxiety and tension.”
“Smoking pushes the brain to switch off its own method for making dopamine. In the long term, the dopamine supply reduces, which in turn encourages people to smoke more. People with depression in particular have difficulty when trying to stop smoking and it is found that the withdrawal symptoms are more severe while trying to give up.”
“At the moment support through the GP or pharmacy is most common, although many mental health charities have made their grounds smoke free. As there is now a growing amount of research, some mental health charities are starting to offer a smoking cessation service.”