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Mental Illness

If you have a mental illness and you smoke, you aren’t alone.

People with mental illness are more than twice as likely to smoke as persons who don’t have a mental illness.

There are a couple of possible reasons why:

1.    The nicotine in cigarettes is very addictive.

2.    You may smoke to cover up the symptoms of your mental illness or the side effects of your medications.

3.    You may be living with a lot of stress. Maybe you don’t have a place to live or you don’t have much money. Stress and smoking go hand-in-hand.

4.    Nicotine may improve your attention and concentration. (These benefits are only short-lived, lasting about five minutes.)

How to quit

Smoking may help you cope with your mental illness but the serious harms from smoking are the same for you as they are for any smoker.

Studies show that persons with mental illness can quit smoking and stay smoke free. You can use many of the same quit smoking strategies that work for people who don’t have a mental illness.

·         Make a plan

·         Get ready for your quit day

·         Ask family and friends for support

·         Use quit smoking aids like the nicotine patch.

Smoking affects the breakdown of medications in your body. Some medications may need to be adjusted to avoid any unpleasant side effects or problems.

Before you quit, talk to your healthcare provider about

·         how much you smoke

·         how you plan to quit

·         possible medication side effects and psychiatric symptoms.

Quit smoking aids like Nicotine Replacement Therapy and pharmacological quit aids work. When you use them with counselling support your chances of success are even higher. Talk to your healthcare provider if you want to use these.

Tobacco Free Nova Scotia offers free, confidential and non-judgemental support about how you can quit smoking. A caring counsellor can work with you, at your pace, to help you develop and follow your quit plan.

Whatever works for you is the best plan.

When you’re ready, we’re ready.



1.    CAN-ADAPTT. (January 2011). The Canadian Action Network for the Advancement, Dissemination and Adoption of Practice‐informed Tobacco Treatment. Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.  Mental Illness and Smoking Fact Sheet.

2.    American Psychological Association

3.    Lasser K, Boyd J, Woolhandler S, Himmelstein DU, McCormick D, Bor DH. Smoking and Mental Illness: A Population-Based Prevalence Study. JAMA.2000;284(20):2606-2610. doi:10.1001/jama.284.20.2606. Retrieved from:

4.    National Alliance on Mental Illness