Tobacco use and mental health: what are the impacts?
If you smoke or use tobacco, you may wonder if or how it is impacting your mental health, whether you have existing mental health challenges or not. Could your mental wellbeing improve if you quit smoking, chewing or vaping?
Higher tobacco use rates and more health harms
Smoking or using tobacco products may be related to underlying mental health concerns. People with a mental illness experience higher use, exposure and health harms related to tobacco. This is partly because of higher smoking rates: people with mental illnesses or substance use disorders consume 40% of all cigarettes smoked by adults while representing only 25% of the population.
Tobacco’s impacts on mental health
Nicotine is highly addictive, and affects the same part of the brain as alcohol, opioids, cocaine and cannabis. It can worsen anxiety symptoms and amplify feelings of depression. It can also interfere with psychiatric medications.
On the flip side, quitting tobacco can improve your mental health. Several studies suggest that quitting smoking is linked with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress, as well as improved positive mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke.
The smoking and mental health myth
There is a misconception that smoking is helpful to people with mental health conditions. In reality, tobacco can not only worsen mental health conditions, but it causes other serious health harms and deaths in this population. Individuals with a substance use disorder or mental health issue pass away between five to 25 years earlier than the general population, and they are far more likely to die from tobacco-related disease than from mental illness.
People with mental health concerns or substance use disorders may have more barriers to accessing care and treatment for tobacco use. But quit support is available and can greatly increase chances of success.
Quitting is hard. There are tools that are proven to make it easier.
Using one of the five types of nicotine replacement medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration can help you quit. You can get nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of the patch, gum and lozenge without a doctor’s prescription. The inhaler and nasal spray need a prescription. Many commercial insurance plans and Medicaid cover the cost of NRT.
Get started or make your quit plan today: Visit Start My Quit or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get started.
- American Lung Association: A Toolkit to Address Tobacco Use in Behavioral Health Settings
- U.S. CDC: Health Equity in Tobacco Prevention and Control