09/01/2004

Health Service needs to tackle smoking health problems

More must be done by the Health Service to tackle the problem of smoking among people with mental health problems, a University of Ulster researcher said today.

Karen Jeffers, from the School of Rehabilitation Science, made the call after completing an investigation into the extent and severity of smoking and attitudes to quitting among people with mental health problems.

“People with mental health problems are twice as likely to smoke than the rest of the general population with a third of these people smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day. This compares to eight percent of the general smoking population”, said Ms Jeffers.

“The research team found that half of those people with mental health problems living in the community are smokers and that this rate rises to 73% for those admitted to hospital.”

Ms Jeffers pointed out that despite the health consequences of smoking being widely known, the health services have not recognised or acknowledged the higher risks to people with mental health problems.

The study makes a number of recommendations for action to monitor and provide services for people with mental health problems who are smokers.

These include making Health Service staff understand the dangers of smoking more and the extent to which it is especially problematic for those with mental health problems.

They should also be prepared to talk about smoking with those who use services and routinely offer brief advice and cessation leaflets.

Most importantly, a culture change in the health communities to confront the smoking issue in people with mental health problems.

The report was commissioned by the Smoking Cessation Services of the WH&SSB and Action Mental Health.

(MB)

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