Smokefree Sheffield are encouraging smokers across the city to set a quit date for No Smoking Day on the 10th March. This year’s campaign focuses on the importance of quitting for your mental health as COVID-19 continues to take its toll. Local studies reported a three-fold increase in the number of people reporting significant depression and anxiety problems during the last lockdown.
Despite evidence showing that quitting is even more effective than antidepressants in improving mood disorders, long held misconceptions around the positive impact of smoking on mental health continue to hold some smokers back from quitting.
Over 1 million smokers have quit since the pandemic hit the country. However, for those smokers who haven’t quit, smoking behaviours appear to have become more entrenched to the detriment of their physical and mental health. Analysis based on GP Patient Survey data showed that smokers with mental health problems are less likely to quit as a result of COVID and more likely to be smoking more than they did before the pandemic.
“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on all of our daily lives. In these difficult and changing times, looking after our mental health and wellbeing is more important than ever. We’re hearing from smokers who want to quit but feel it’s just too stressful right now. We want to reassure people that quitting smoking is one of the best things they can do for their mental health and there’s support available to anyone who needs it.”
– Cllr Mary Lea, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure
Sheridan, an ex-smoker from Sheffield who quit last year, used smoking as her go-to coping mechanism for stress. Like others, she believed smoking was helping her relax and unwind, but it was doing just the opposite and worsening her anxiety symptoms. When someone hasn’t had a cigarette for some time, the craving for another one makes them feel irritable and anxious. These feelings are temporarily relieved when they have a cigarette and is why so many associate smoking with an improved mood. Sheridan quit through the combination of switching to an e-cigarette and finding healthier ways to deal with stress.
“Once I pinpointed that stress was my trigger I knew I needed to think about what else I could do differently to manage that stress. Little things like how now I make a point of changing my toenail colour every week because that’s me taking 10 minutes to myself to relax. It sets a good example for my daughter too. Teaching her more positive ways to take time for herself and de-stress.”
“There are lots of misconceptions about the link between smoking and mental health. Many people turn to cigarettes when they are anxious or stressed in the belief that it calms them down or helps them relax. However, the opposite is true.
With No Smoking Day just around the corner, I really want to urge smokers in Sheffield, particularly those who are struggling with their mental health, to reach out to the team at Smokefree Sheffield and get some support to quit.”
– Greg Fell, Director of Public Health Sheffield
Further advice and support about quitting for No Smoking Day is available here.
NOTES TO EDITORS
- For media enquiries and interview requests email [email protected]
- Depression and anxiety tripled during the height of lockdown, new study shows https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/news/nr/depression-anxiety-tripled-during-lockdown-1.916391
- A million people have stopped smoking since the COVID pandemic hit Britain https://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/pandemicmillion
- Supporting smokers to quit can help tackle surge in poor mental health https://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/supporting-smokers-to-quit-can-help-tackle-surge-in-poor-mental-health/
- 1 in 4 smokers has a mental health condition https://ash.org.uk/media-and-news/press-releases-media-and-news/1-in-4-smokers-has-a-mental-health-condition-but-doctors-and-nurses-not-getting-the-training-they-need-to-help/