​People living with mental illness have a much higher smoking prevalence than people without mental illness. They also tend to be heavy smokers, have poorer health status and a shorter life expectancy than smokers without mental illness, in part due to a lifetime of tobacco use.

There are misperceptions that prevent people with mental illness from quitting smoking. These include the mistaken beliefs that smokers living with mental illness do not want to quit, that smoking helps them cope better with stress, and that quitting smoking will make their mental illness worse.

Reasons to quit

Quitting smoking has many benefits for people with mental illness, including improved physical health and wellbeing and a reduction in the financial burden imposed by smoking.

Unfortunately, many people with mental illness do not receive the support they need to quit smoking or wrongly believe the common myth that quitting will make their mental illness worse. This belief is unfounded.

We know that:

  • many people with mental illness want to quit smoking
  • people with mental illness can and do quit smoking
  • quitting does not make mental illness worse or worsen symptoms of the illness
  • nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and other forms of pharmacotherapy are safe and effective for use by people with a mental illness
  • sometimes withdrawal symptoms from smoking (such as depressed mood, irritability and anxiety) can be mistaken for symptoms of mental illness.

Quitting can lead to a better quality of life for people with mental illness including a reduction in depression, anxiety and stress and in some cases, a need for less medication and less side effects.

Getting help to quit

If you are a smoker and have a mental illness and want help with quitting smoking, discuss quitting with your doctor or health professional to work out a quit plan together.

  • Your doctor can monitor your medication levels and side-effects and advise on antidepressant medication;
  • your doctor or health professional about NRT and other forms of pharmacotherapy that can greatly assist you to cope with cravings and withdrawal symptoms;
  • call the NSW Quitline 13 7848 for more information and for ongoing support.

There are many resources you can take advantage of in your efforts to quit smoking. NSW Health has developed a range of fact sheets and brochures for your benefit.​​​​​​​​​​​​

Recommended resources to smoking and mental health and smoking

Current as at: Tuesday 31 January 2023
Contact page owner: Centre for Population Health