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Action needed to help Scots with mental health issues stop smoking – charity

Support to help vulnerable Scots quit smoking is a necessity, a charity has said (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Support to help vulnerable Scots quit smoking is a necessity, a charity has said (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)

Up to half of people experiencing mental health problems in Scotland’s poorest communities are smokers, a report has shown.

The Scottish Government have been urged to act to address the “serious” health inequalities impacting vulnerable Scots.

Leading health charity Action on Smoking and Health (Ash) Scotland has called on more specialist support to help the estimated 230,000 people with mental health problems to quit smoking.

It follows the publication of the charity’s Closing the Inequality Gap: Smoking and Mental Health report.

The smoking prevalence for people experiencing mental health problems in Scotland’s poorest communities is between 40% and 50%, the report said.

Charity experts have drawn comparisons to the new figures with the general population’s smoking rates back in the mid-1970s.

However, for those in the most affluent areas experiencing mental health issues, the smoking rate is just 4%.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of Ash Scotland, said the Scottish Government should set a specific key performance indicator and regularly report to show progress of smoking prevalence among people with mental health problems.

The calls come as the Scottish Government gears up to refresh its strategies on improving mental health and address tobacco control in the coming months.

She said: “With almost half of people with a mental health problem in our most deprived communities smoking, our new report is spotlighting a serious health inequalities gap, which needs to be urgently addressed.

“People with mental health and substance misuse issues smoke more, tend to be more addicted to nicotine and find it harder to quit than others in society.

“It is vital that people in this group are supported and empowered to make informed decisions about quitting smoking to improve their health and wellbeing.”

While smoking prevalence is higher among this priority group, they are just as likely to want to quit as the rest of the population, the charity said.

“Going forward, the Scottish Government must ensure that NHS boards are required and resourced to provide specialist person-centred smoking cessation advice to people with mental health problems, and performances are measured to demonstrate successes by those important services are being achieved,” Ms Duffy added.

And it is thought that smoking can actually exacerbate issues for those already experiencing mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety.

The charity’s report also highlighted the work by NHS Lanarkshire to help vulnerable Scots stop smoking.

It offered specialist support for anyone experiencing mental health problems who is ready to quit smoking, as well as dedicated advisers who could assist with nicotine replacement productions.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We recognise the links between smoking, poorer health and mental health outcomes and we will consider the recommendations of this report and all available evidence as we focus on refreshing our Tobacco Action Plan 2023-28 for Scotland.

“Scottish Government officials continue to work with Ash to improve health and mental health outcomes for the population.

“We will publish a refreshed Mental Health Strategy at the end of this year which will present an opportunity to enhance our work on the links between poorer mental health outcomes and smoking.”

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