New research released ahead of next month's national No Smoking Day shows that smokers have a massively increased risk of anxiety and depression compared with non smokers - despite the commonly held perception that lighting up is a stress reliever.

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It also shows that levels of anxiety and depression among people who have quit smoking for a year or more are similar to those of people who have never smoked, suggesting that quitting smoking could help improve people's mental health.

The research, carried out by smoking cessation expert Professor Robert West of University College London, is the first of its kind to compare anxiety and depression in smokers, non smokers and people who have quit for more than a year.

It found 18.3% of smokers suffered depression and anxiety compared to 10% of non smokers and 11.3% of ex-smokers. This counters the perception of many who believe smoking is a stress buster.

The British Heart Foundation and Wolverhampton City Council's Public Health team are urging smokers to use the research as an incentive to quit on No Smoking Day, Wednesday 11 March, 2015.

Councillor Sandra Samuels, Wolverhampton City Council's Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "The evidence clearly shows that the myth that smoking calms the nerves is just that, a myth.

"Instead, quitting smoking actually reduces stress and anxiety - and not only is it key to improving your mental health, it will also improve your physical health, too.

"Smoking increases the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and a variety of cancers. Stopping smoking is the single best thing you can do for your heart health, and the risk to your health decreases significantly soon after you quit."

Dr Mike Knapton, British Heart Foundation Associate Medical Director, said: "Dispelling the myth that smoking is a stress reliever should be another motivating reason to finally kick the habit this No Smoking Day. We're asking smokers to mark Wednesday 11 March on their calendars and join the nearly 1 million people who are expected to use the day to quit."

The British Heart Foundation has worked in partnership with Public Health England to offer the NHS One Day Quit Tool, available from Type=links;Linkid=5594;Title=No Smoking Day;Target=_blank; , which provides practical and tailored support to help people trying to quit very step of the way.

People can also get help and support from the Wolverhampton Stop Smoking Service on 0800 073 4242 or 01902 444246 or by logging on to Type=links;Linkid=5594;Title=No Smoking Day;Target=_blank;.

Councillor Samuels added: "The first day without cigarettes is often the hardest and so I'd urge smokers to use the free support to help them through their first 24 hours smokefree."

  • released: Thursday 26 February, 2015