A health charity has called for urgent action to prevent people with mental health illness dying 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population because of their smoking habit.
Action Against Smoking (ASH) has published an ambitious list of targets to help smokers with mental health needs stub out their cigarettes in its report The Stolen Years: how smoking disproportionately harms those with mental health conditions.
ASH said smoking is the largest contributory factor to the deaths of people with mental health conditions 10 to 20 years earlier than the general population.
They maker up a third of the adult tobacco consumption and their smoking rates are double the general population.
However ASH said these rates could be reduced dramatically.
It wants to see smoking rates for people with a mental health condition dip below 5% by 2035.
The report’s chairman former health minister Paul Burstow said: “It is time to challenge the idea that smoking amongst people with mental health conditions is either inevitable or intractable: it is not.”
Patients said they want to quit – just like many people in the general population but two thirds said no one giving inpatient care had ever offered it.
However the report said 16% who had tried or managed to quit had used local stop smoking services.
Among its targets ASH wants to see local authority services support people to become smoke-free.
It also wants people to get routine advice and signposting to quit smoking.
Those who are not yet ready or willing to ditch their habit should be given support through harm reduction strategies.
Wendy Preston who is the vice chairwoman of the Association of Respiratory Nurse Specialists and member of the RCN’s public heath forum said: “People with mental health conditions are as likely to want to quit as anybody else.”
She said they need help to stop as a priority along with other health interventions and it was important to get help before they went into smoke free hospital units.
Professionals should be confident to talk to patients about their smoking and challenge the myth that it reduces stress, she said.
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