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Mental health, smoking, harm reduction and quit attempts - a population survey in England

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Original languageEnglish
Article number1237
Pages (from-to)1237
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
Published14 Aug 2020

King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Tobacco control strategies have engendered overall declines in smoking; however, a large gap remains between people with and without mental health problems, causing substantial health inequalities. Population-level information on barriers and opportunities for improvements is scarce. We aimed to assess mental health status of cigarette smokers and recent ex-smokers ('past-year smokers') in England, and smoking and harm reduction behaviour and quit attempts by mental health status.

METHODS: Data were collected from 5637 current and 434 recent ex-smokers in 2016/17 in household surveys of representative samples of adults. We calculated weighted prevalence of different indicators of mental health problem: a) ever diagnosis, b) none, moderate, serious past-month distress, c) past-year treatment. We compared weighted smoking status, cigarette type, dependence, motivation to stop smoking, cutting down, use of nicotine replacement therapy or e-cigarettes, short-term abstinence, and quit attempts according to mental health status.

RESULTS: Among past-year smokers: 35.9% ever had a diagnosis; 24.3% had experienced moderate, an additional 9.7% serious, past-month distress; 21.9% had had past-year treatment. Those with an indication of a mental health problem were more highly dependent and more likely to smoke roll-your-own cigarettes but also more likely to be motivated to stop smoking, to cut down, use nicotine replacement therapy or e-cigarettes and to have attempted to quit in the past year.

CONCLUSIONS: About a third of cigarette smokers in England have mental health problems. Interventions should address their increased dependence and leverage higher prevalence of harm reduction behaviours, motivation to stop and attempts to stop smoking.

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