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Our key policy asks & recommendations

This page provides a brief overview of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership's key recommendations to reduce smoking for people with a mental health condition.

Our key policy asks

  • A new Tobacco Control Plan for England with a commitment to secure smokefree 2030 for people with a mental health condition. Including:
    • A target for reducing rates in this population
    • Scaled up support for smokers outside secondary MH services e.g. IAPT
    • Connecting smokers to quitting aids such as e-cigarettes
  • That the 10 Year Mental Health Strategy includes a clear commitment to reduce smoking as part of a strategy to improve physical health for this population.
  • Commitments made through the NHS Long Term Plan to provide smoking cessation support to smokers with long term mental health conditions must be fully implemented and sustained

Why it matters

Smoking is undermining government goals to improve physical health of people with mental health conditions:

  • High smoking rates among people with mental health condition is a leading cause of premature death and disease: Smoking accounts for two-thirds of the reduced life expectancy of people with a serious mental illness (SMI).
  • Smoking rates are high in most groups with poor mental health: The highest rates of smoking are among people with substance use issues e.g. 70% of those receiving treatment for opiates smoke. People with SMI have more than three times the smoking rate of the general population (41% verses 14%). The rate among people with depression and anxiety is just under twice that of the general population (26% verses 14%) but they account for around 1.6 million smokers.

Increasing quitting can improve population level mental health, reduce burden on the NHS and improve the wealth and employment prospects of people with mental health conditions:

  • Stopping smoking improves mental health: There is now good evidence that stopping smoking improves mental health of all smokers. The effect has been compared to the impact of anti-depressants.
  • Smoking exacerbates levels of poor mental health: Growing evidence that smoking contributes to development of some mental health conditions (including schizophrenia and depression), smoking damages people’s wealth, health and employability further contributing to the burden of poor mental health

Without targeted action people with mental health conditions will be left behind:

  • Securing the Government’s goal of a smokefree country by 2030 will be at least a decade later for people with mental health conditions making a major contribution to inequality.
  • Barriers to quitting: People with a mental health condition are similarly motivated to quit compared to the general population and with the right support can be equally successful, but higher levels of addiction and other barriers undermine quit success.