Smoking Cessation Advocate: Mental Health Issues Don’t Have to Link to Smoking

Though a growing number of people are making the choice to quit smoking for a variety of reasons, physical health complications from the habit continue to be a problem of serious concern both for those who smoke and their loved ones as well as for taxpayers left with large bills to foot for associated medical issues. Most general practice doctors advise their clients to cease or significantly reduce their tobacco use, but one smoking cessation advocate notes that when it comes to those who exhibit signs of mental health concerns, many doctors shy away from suggesting that their clients should quit. Brian Hitsman of Northwestern University argues that while thirty eight percent of people visiting their medical physician receive treatment to quit smoking, a mere twelve percent of those with mental health difficulties receive the same treatment.

The discrepancy, suggests Hitsman, is the result of a false belief that tobacco use is somehow necessary or helpful for those with feelings of depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns. Unfortunately, this reluctance to persuade clients to quit smoking may have profound effects; on average, a far greater number of those with mental health issues smoke than those without symptoms.

Hitsman points out that people experiencing mental health difficulties may experience an increased challenge when attempting to quit smoking, but also notes that the cessation of tobacco use has not been shown to have any adverse effect on the symptoms of mental difficulties themselves. Rather, exhibiting the strength, determination, and commitment to overcome smoking may work wonders for those experiencing self-esteem issues or grappling with feelings of dependency. Far from something that should be swept under the rug, Hitsman proclaims that tobacco use among those with mental health concerns should be highlighted, addressed, and ultimately, resolved.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Rodney


    September 28th, 2009 at 10:42 AM

    Every new study says a new thing and comes out with a new result… I have completely lost trust on these studies and am just convinced I am not a smoker.

  • Eric


    October 1st, 2009 at 6:10 AM

    Smoking is something of a placebo to smokers. Taking a puff helps them think clearly.

  • Elizabeth R.

    Elizabeth R.

    October 5th, 2009 at 4:52 PM

    I know that when I used to smoke I did far more heavily in times of crisis. I could double my usual pack a day if there was a death in the family or financial worries pressing in on me. I can see why the doctors would be reluctant to suggest taking away that crutch until you were in better mental shape.

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