People with long-term mental health conditions more likely to smoke, figures show

Adults in the Black Country and parts of Staffordshire with long-term mental health conditions are much more likely to smoke than others, new figures show.

A total of 19 per cent of people in the NHS Black Country and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group area (CCG) with a condition smoked in 2019-20.

Altogether, 13.6 per cent of adults in the area said they smoke. It meant an adult with a mental health condition was 40 per cent more likely to smoke than others.

And the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities figures for NHS Stafford and Surrounds' CCG area showed 18.5 per cent of adults smoked in 2020-2021.

Altogether, 11.9 per cent of adults in Stafford and other areas said they smoke. It meant an adult with a condition was 56 per cent more likely to smoke than others.

Nationally, 14.4 per cent of adults said they smoke regularly in 2020-21, the most recent figures, but this rises to 26.3 per cent among those with a mental health illness.

Dr David Crepaz Keay, the Mental Health Foundation's head of applied learning, said giving up smoking is a major goal for people using mental health services but that support to quit is not accessible enough.

Hazel Cheeseman, deputy chief executive of ASH, said the "tragedy" is avoidable and called on the Government to do more to bring down smoking rates among those with mental health conditions.

"With more investment into services and wider policies to reduce smoking, we can bring rates down for people with mental health conditions and everyone else," added Ms Cheeseman.

"The Government pledged to make smoking obsolete back in 2019 – it is past time that we heard how they will do this and address the terrible inequalities caused by smoking for people with mental health conditions."

Stopping smoking is linked to improved mental health, Ms Cheeseman further explained, stating that some conditions such as depression and schizophrenia have been linked to starting smoking.

The figures come after the Government's unveiled its aim to be smoke-free by 2030, meaning fewer than five per cent of adults in England will regularly smoke. Smoking prevalence among people aged over 16 in England has continued to decline throughout the last decade, separate Office for National Statistics show.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it is "addressing the damaging health implications of smoking right across the country, especially where rates remain high" as it aims to make England smoke-free by 2030.

A spokesperson said the new Tobacco Control Plan – which is informed by an independent review on tackling disparities and will set out how the DHSC will meet the smoke-free target – will be published later this year.

The NHS Long Term Plan commits to delivering NHS-funded tobacco treatment services to all people accessing long term mental health services by 2024.

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