Smoking prevalence among people with a mental health condition is higher than the average rate in the general population. Therefore it is a very important area of activity for the Smokefree Action Coalition. Most smokers who have a mental health condition want to quit and it’s vital that the services and support are in place to help them do so.
The Stolen Years
In 2016 ASH published The Stolen Years: Smoking and Mental Health Action report which highlights the disproportionately high rates of smoking among people with a mental health condition.
Whilst smoking rates have fallen significantly over the last 20 years, they have remained stubbornly high among those with poor mental health and around 1 in 3 cigarettes are currently smoked by someone with a mental health condition.
The report was endorsed by 27 mental health and public health organisations, many of whom have become key members of what became the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership, including The Royal College of Psychiatrists, and Rethink Mental Illness.
The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership
The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership was established in 2016 following the publication of The Stolen Years report, to bring together organisations committed to improving the health and lives of people with a mental health condition through achieving the ambitions set out in the report.
The Partnership meets quarterly and brings together Royal Colleges, third sector organisations and academia to review progress and highlight areas for further action.
The ambition of the report, and of the Partnership, is to reduce smoking rates among people with a mental health condition: to 5% by 2035, with an interim target of 35% by 2020. It sets out clear recommendations for the actions needed to make this a reality.
|York Mental Health and Addictions Research Group|
Smoking and mental health – A joint report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists
NICE Guidance PH48 – Smoking: acute, maternity and mental health services
The Stolen Years: Smoking and mental health action report – The Stolen Years outlines recommendations to reduce the disproportionately high levels of smoking amongst people with a mental health condition
Mental health, smoking and poverty in the UK – This report, by Dr Tessa Langley of the University of Nottingham, quantifies the extent to which smoking exacerbates poverty in adults with mental health conditions in the UK
ASH smoking and mental health survey 2016 – This report examines the results of surveys which explored the attitudes of people with mental health conditions to smoking and the views of staff working with people with mental health conditions
Smoking and mental health conditions – This briefing sits within the wider Health Inequalities Resource Pack which has been designed as a set of pragmatic tools, setting out the problem and solutions, to support the case for targeted tobacco control in groups with high smoking prevalence
Recent news from the Partnership
18 July 2017 – Press release: New Government Tobacco Control Plan Tackles Smoking and Mental Health
The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership has welcomed publication of the Government’s new Tobacco Control Plan for England  for the first time prioritising reducing smoking among people with a mental health condition.
Although smoking rates have fallen significantly over the last 20 years, they have remained stubbornly high among those with poor mental health. Just over two in five adults with a serious mental illness smoke, and it is estimated that around one in three cigarettes are currently smoked by someone with a mental health condition .
The Plan makes clear that action is needed across all mental health services stating: “The majority of mental health provision takes place in the community… shared ownership and responsibility in the local health and social care system is essential…”
New commitments in the plan on smoking and mental health include:
• Comprehensive smokefree policies, including integrated treatment for tobacco dependence, in all mental health services by 2018
• PHE and NHS England will develop materials to support mental health trusts to implement NICE Guidance on helping people using mental health services to quit smoking
• Provide access to training for all health professionals on how to help patients – and particularly patients in mental health services – to quit smoking
• Identify and rectify gaps in data on smoking and mental health which show prevalence, trends and the level of stop smoking support provided in order to have a comprehensive picture of the problem.
• To work to integrate stop smoking support with addiction services and services for people with mental health conditions
• PHE will work with the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership to consider the evidence on how to reduce the prevalence of smoking among people with mental health conditions.
The Plan has adopted recommendations made in the 2016 report on smoking and mental health, “The Stolen Years”, published by Action on Smoking and Health in collaboration with many mental health and public health organisations. 
Commenting on the new plan, Professor Paul Burstow, Chair of the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust and co-chair of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership said: “I’m delighted to see the emphasis in the new Tobacco Control Plan on the need to bring down rates of smoking among people with a mental health condition, and help close the shocking gap in life expectancy between people with a mental health condition and the rest of the population.
“As the Chair of an NHS Trust, I am also pleased that the Government wants to ensure that staff are appropriately trained and that they are able to link patients to the high quality support people will need to quit. The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership looks forward to working with Government to take this agenda forward.”
Professor Ann McNeill of the UK Centre for Tobacco Control and Alcohol Studies and co-chair of the Mental Health and Smoking Partnership added:“It is a real step forward for public health policy that the Government is committed to cut smoking rates among people with mental health conditions. For all the progress we have made in the general population, some of the most vulnerable groups in our society – including those with mental health conditions – are still being left behind, and this contributes greatly to health inequality.
“I am particularly pleased to see that the commitment to smokefree settings is not just about putting up more signs and notices, but to implementing NICE guidance and providing staff with the training and patients with the support they need to quit. Now the Government must make the resources available to put this Plan into full effect – targets and objectives by themselves are not sufficient.”
 Towards a smoke-free generation: a tobacco control plan for England. Department of Health. July 2017. The previous Plan expired at the end of 2015.
 Smoking rates in people with serious mental illness: 2016 Public Health England
 The Mental Health and Smoking Partnership was established in 2016 following the publication of The Stolen Years: Smoking and Mental Health Action Report. The Partnership, which meets quarterly, brings together Royal Colleges, third sector organisations and academia to review progress and highlight areas for further action. It is co-chaired by Professor Ann McNeill, UKCTAS and Rt Hon Professor Paul Burstow, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust.