Promising results for smoking cessation program as one in nine participants quit the habit

April 4, 2024
Drug & Alcohol Disorders Keeping the Body in Mind Mental Health Neurological Disorders Psychosis

A smoking cessation program, Keep Quitting in Mind (KQIM), for people living with mental illness has resulted in one in nine participants quitting the habit and many others reducing their daily smoking by half.

Dr Hamish Fibbins, Translational Research Lead at Mindgardens Neuroscience Network, said the program was delivered to people with mental illness and showed promising outcomes.

“The Keep Quitting in Mind program has shown exciting outcomes for some of the most vulnerable people in our community and highest risk smokers,” Dr Fibbins said of the evaluation, which is published in the Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing.

The program’s success is significant as people living with severe mental illness experience a reduced life expectancy of up to 15 years compared to the general population due to factors such as high rates of tobacco smoking.”

In Australia, the USA and the UK, people living with severe mental illness consume approximately half of all cigarettes sold.

“We will be doing everything we can to help reduce the rates of smoking in this population group and elevate the quality of their life – the Keep Quitting in Mind program has demonstrated its ability to deliver that,” Dr Fibbins said.

The KQIM program was delivered to people living with mental illness across three mental health service sites within the South Eastern Sydney Local Health District between July 2018 and December 2020, as part of routine clinical care.

A mental health nurse with tobacco cessation training conducted an initial assessment face-to-face, focused on the person’s current smoking status, previous quit attempts, their goals, barriers to quitting and support needs.

The nurse also offered advice on the use of quitting products such as nicotine replacement therapies, including how to manage any side effects, and helped participants to develop alternate coping strategies and address their beliefs about the use of tobacco to self-manage mental health symptoms.

In total, 99 consumers had at least one session with the tobacco treatment specialist – comprising similar numbers of men and women, with the bulk of participants aged in their 30s and 40s.

Full daily smoking data was available for 56 participants, and this group halved their consumption to 10 cigarettes daily. 11 participants quit smoking completely.

Dr Fibbins said around 60% of people living with severe mental illness identified as tobacco smokers and smoking rates for this population group had remained relatively unchanged despite significant reductions in the general population.

“These results show that people with mental illness are highly motivated to quit smoking but need targeted smoking cessation programs to help them achieve that given their special circumstances,” he said.

Professor Jackie Curtis, Executive Director at Mindgardens, noted the success of the program on society’s most vulnerable.

“I’m incredibly proud of the role Mindgardens played in supporting this program which will provide life-long benefits to people living with mental illness, who are often overlooked by traditional campaigns to reduce or quit smoking.

“I’d like to acknowledge the commitment of everyone involved – especially the participants – to achieve these outstanding results. We now have the evidence, and it is time to see these interventions made available through all mental health services.”

Keep Quitting in Mind is part of the Keeping the Body in Mindgardens suite of research programs focused on improving the physical health of people living with severe mental illness.