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Mental health, smoking and poverty in the UK

A report commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health and Public Health England

People with a mental disorder are more likely to be unemployed, receive benefits and be living in relative poverty than those without mental health problems. There is also extensive UK and international evidence that smoking prevalence is substantially higher among people with mental disorders than in the general population. Smoking is associated with financial deprivation, and it is therefore likely that smoking prevalence in poor adults with mental disorders is higher still.

Smoking is a significant cause of morbidity and mortality in smoking, and is also a direct contributor to financial deprivation. In 2014 the weighted average price of 20 cigarettes in the Most Popular Price Category (MPPC) was £8.47.4 While low income smokers can reduce the cost of smoking by smoking budget brands or hand-rolling tobacco (HRT), smoking places an additional burden on an already deprived population.

This report has been commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) to quantify the extent to which smoking exacerbates poverty in adults with mental disorders in the UK. The objectives of the project are to:

  • estimate the number adults in the UK with mental disorders who are recognised as living in poverty and who currently smoke
  • estimate the expenditure of these smokers on tobacco
  • estimate the number of adults with a mental disorder who are not formally classified as being in poverty, but who are smokers and would be classified as living in poverty if their expenditure on tobacco were subtracted from their household income