RCPsych welcome focus on mental health in new anti-smoking proposals

Statement / comment
13 June 2022

A new independent review on tobacco led by Dr Javed Khan OBE has been published, setting out recommendations to help the government meet its smokefree ambition by 2030.

Smoking is a leading cause in the gap in life expectancy between people with severe mental illness and those without, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists welcome the focus on mental health in the report.

Many people still wrongly believe that smoking has a positive impact on their mental wellbeing, helping them to relax, or deal with stress and anxiety. This is a stubborn myth, which many healthcare workers seem to also believe, when the reverse is true. Smoking does not relieve stress, it only relieves the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal.

Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“It’s positive to see a renewed focus on the link between smoking and poor mental health. We agree that work is needed to change the view that smoking can aid stress relief in both the public and healthcare professionals.

“Given the evidence that people with mental health problems are much more likely to smoke than the general population, it’s vital that smoking cessation programmes are properly resourced and take account of the particular needs of people with mental illnesses. Offering support to stop smoking as part of the treatment available in acute and community mental health settings would be a helpful step forward. It’s important that any investments in research and data improvements on smoking cessation include mental health in a significant way to measure the impact of these policies.”

People with mental health conditions die 10 to 20 years earlier, and the biggest preventable factor in this is smoking.

Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, contributed to the report, saying:

“It’s a myth that smoking is beneficial to mental health. This misconception undermines progress towards improving the health of our nation, both physically and mentally, and allows a vast number of people to justify a habit that is killing them.”

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