Ambitious targets set to tackle health gap among smokers with a mental health condition

Report sets out how healthcare professionals can address health inequalities among smokers with a mental health condition

New actions to support people with mental health problems quit smoking have been published to address the continuing premature death rates.

The Stolen Years – the Mental Health and Smoking Action Report was published today (April 13) by campaign organisation Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and has been endorsed by 27 health and mental health organisations.

It sets out recommendations for how smoking rates for people with a mental health condition could be dramatically reduced. These include better training for healthcare staff, better access to stop-smoking medication and a move to smoke-free mental health settings.

Its overarching ambition is for smoking among people with a mental health condition to decline to less than 5% by 2035, with an interim target of 35% by 2020.

Currently, around a third of adult tobacco smoke consumption is by people with a current mental health condition, and smoking is the single largest factor accounting for why people with mental health conditions die on average ten to 20 years earlier than the general population, the report highlights.

Responding to the recommendations, RCN mental health adviser Ian Hulatt said: ‘It is distressing to see this continuing health gap, which is placing people with mental health conditions at a double disadvantage. Addictive substances can have a disproportionate effect on people when they are in distress, and this can form part of a downward spiral of poor mental health, poor physical health and poverty.

‘It takes considerable personal strength and expert professional support to beat an addiction to smoking, especially for those with mental health problems. Nurses have a vital combination of expertise and empathy which can be used to give people that strength, but it needs time and resources that are often unavailable.

‘Investing time and money in this now will save NHS funds in the long run, not to mention removing an avoidable source of distress for many people.’

The report can be read here


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