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Navigating Smoking and Mental Health

Smoking has long been recognised as a leading cause of various health issues including heart disease, respiratory issues, and various forms of cancer.

However, smokers are less aware of the negative effects that smoking has on mental health.

In recent years, scientific research concluded that smoking has a profound impact on people suffering from anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.

Stop Smoking London has put together a guide detailing everything you need to know when it comes to smoking and mental health – as well as access to free resources and helpful information.

Smoking has a negative impact on mental health

Scientific research has found that smoking has a profound impact on people suffering from anxiety, depression and cognitive decline.

How does smoking affect your mental health and wellbeing?

Many smokers typically view smoking cigarettes as a stress reliever.

This false perception is due to the chemical reaction in your brain as nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine – giving smokers a sense of calm after lighting up a cigarette.

The dopamine release provides a temporary sense of relaxation and calmness for roughly 25 minutes when smoking.

However, this relaxed feeling soon wears off and often leads smokers to reach for another cigarette.

This can quickly lead to smokers becoming dependent on nicotine for stress management and consequently leading to a higher likelihood of developing physical diseases such as lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, and dementia.


I use cigarettes as a coping mechanism

Smokers tend to use tobacco as a form of self-medication to help alleviate feelings of anxiety and/or depression.

Chronic stress, childhood trauma and other precursors can cause a person to become tempted to take up smoking – having heard the false perception that ‘smoking calms you’ from peers and false information.

This can create a cycle of dependency, where smoking may temporarily alleviate symptoms, but long-term makes smokers feel worse and heightens mental health problems while affecting physical health.


Why am I struggling with smoking and my mental health?

There are several challenges facing smokers who also suffer from mental health issues.

Smoking often serves as a coping mechanism – providing people with a way to temporarily manage stress, anxiety, or depressive symptoms.

This reliance can create a cycle of dependency – making it harder for smokers to use healthier and safer strategies when managing emotions.

Additionally, smoking is an expensive habit that typically costs the average smoker in London over £400 per month.

Those with limited financial resources can often experience exacerbated feelings of anxiety and stress due to needing to fund everyday expenses as well as funding smoking habits.

Learn how much you could save via the Stop Smoking London calculator.

Smokers with mental health problems are more likely to believe quitting will be harder for them, despite having as much desire to quit as other smokers.

There is also evidence indicating that individuals may require increased doses of certain medications and antidepressants due to the disruption caused by smoking on the effectiveness of these drugs.

Quitting smoking massively boosts both physical and mental health.

Individuals with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia, are significantly more prone to smoking, often at a heavier rate.

What happens when I quit smoking?

Both physical and mental health improve when smokers quit tobacco. You will quickly find:

–      Your level of stress, anxiety and depression are lower

–      Your outlook on life and general mood improves

–      Antidepressants and other medicine dosages for mental health problems can be lowered (please only do this in consultation with your GP before doing so.)

When smokers begin a quit attempt, they usually experience withdrawal symptoms due to reduced levels of nicotine within the body.

Feelings of irritableness, anxiousness and restlessness are common during this phase which usually lasts 2 – 4 weeks.

This is called nicotine withdrawal and can be managed in numerous ways including stop smoking medication, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and more.


I smoke and struggle with my mental health. Where can I find support?

There are a number of different options available for smokers looking to quit.

Stop Smoking London has launched a new text message service to help smokers quit smoking.

It’s free to use, can be personalised to your specific needs and lifestyle, and has been created with input from top medical experts and ex-smokers who have successfully quit.

The text messaging service provides daily motivational texts to support smokers’ quit journey.

These texts have been tailored around the five most common reasons for quitting:

–      Improve general health

–      Pregnancy

–      Saving more money

–      Encouragement from family/friends and/or partner

–      Planning a family

You can receive free stop smoking support messages by visiting Stop Smoking London and signing up for the service here.

For Londoners, Stop Smoking London also offer a free, dedicated phone programme to help you to quit for good.

Smokers can also access free stop smoking support from your local London borough.


Quitting smoking is possible with the right help

Marisa from Croydon suffered from serious mental health issues having smoked for most of her life.

After numerous visits to the hospital with deteriorating physical and mental health problems, Marisa found support from Tracy, her Tobacco Advisor, who encouraged Marisa to quit smoking by using a vape.

Read Marisa’s story on how she quit smoking.

Listen to Tracy Davies, Marisa’s tobacco advisor speak about smoking and the effects it has on mental health.

Looking for information on smoking and anxiety? Read Stop Smoking London’s guide to understanding the effect nicotine has on anxiety.

Is smoking affecting my mental health?

Tobacco Dependence Advisor, Tracy explains why smoking could actually be making your feelings worse.

Need help with quitting smoking?

Quitting smoking massively boosts both physical and mental health.

Individuals with mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia, are significantly more prone to smoking, often at a heavier rate.

On average, life expectancy for people living with mental health problems drops 10 to 20 years compared to those without mental health problems, with smoking a significant contributing factor

Moreover, higher doses of certain antipsychotic and antidepressant medications are often necessary due to smoking’s interference with their efficacy.

Stop Smoking London has a wide range of free resources, and guides by ex-smokers and can direct you to your local stop smoking service for further help.

If you want to stop smoking, visit Stop Smoking London to receive free support. You can sign up for the free text messaging service for personalised support that can be tailored to your individual needs.