Newfoundland and Labrador Smokers’ Helpline

myths & facts:
mental illness & smoking

Myth: People with mental illness cannot quit smoking OR do not want to quit.

Fact: People with mental illness are just as concerned about the health risks associated with smoking as other people who smoke and many are interested in receiving information on quit smoking services and resources[1]. There are effective supports to help individuals with mental illness to be smoke-free.

Myth: Quitting smoking will harm mental illness recovery or treatment plans.

Fact: Many studies have concluded that quitting smoking does not worsen psychiatric symptoms or negatively impact mental illness recovery. In fact, quitting has been linked to very positive outcomes for those with mental illness[2].

Myth: Smoking can be useful for people with mental illnesses because they use it to self-medicate, therefore lessening the symptoms of these illnesses.

Fact: Research shows that people with schizophrenia who smoke experience increased psychiatric symptoms, need higher medication doses and have an increased number of hospitalizations[3].  In addition, chemicals in cigarettes smoke interfere with the effectiveness of some psychotropic medication used to treat mental health conditions[2].

Myth: Quitting smoking will negatively impact treatment for other addictions.

Fact: Involvement in quit-smoking initiatives while in treatment for other substance abuse issues is associated with a 25% greater likelihood of long-term abstinence from alcohol and other drugs, while continued smoking is associated with worse drug outcomes[4][5].

[1] Els, C. & Kunyk, D. (2008) Management of tobacco addiction in patients with mental illness.  Smoking Cessation Rounds, 2(2).

[2] Morris, C., Waxmonsky, J., May, M., Giese, A., Martin, L.(2009). Smoking cessation for persons with mental illnesses: A toolkit for mental health providers. Denver, Colorado: University of Colorado, Department of Psychiatry

[3] Centre for Addiction Research of British Columbia (CARBC). (2006). Tobacco reduction in the context of mental illness and addictions: A review of the evidence. Vancouver, British Columbia: Provincial Health Services Authority

[4] Baca, C.T., & Yahne, C.E. (2009). Smoking cessation during substance abuse treatment: What you need to know. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36, 205-219.

[5] Prochaska, J.J., Delucchi, K., Hall, S.M. (2004). A meta-analysis of smoking cessation interventions with individuals in substance abuse treatment or recovery. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 72(6), 1144 – 1156.