Smokefree Starts - it's time to talk about smoking and mental health

Everyone knows that smoking is bad for your physical health, but what about the impact it has on your mental health?

We want to start a conversation about smoking and mental health, so we’re excited to join NHS South Yorkshire and our neighbouring councils to launch our new Smokefree Starts campaign.

Supporting our Healthy Barnsley ambitions, this campaign aims to help everyone understand the impact smoking has on your mental health and encourage smokers to give quitting a go.

Tobacco remains one of the most preventable causes of ill health, disability and death, with at least 16,000 hospital admissions every year in South Yorkshire due to smoking. While smoking rates are falling in South Yorkshire, we know people with mental health conditions are up to four times more likely to smoke, so we want to make sure they can get the right support to quit.

Over time, societal norms have reinforced the mistaken belief that smoking helps to manage levels of stress, anxiety and depression. This is a belief held by smokers and non-smokers alike, leading smoking to be seen as a coping mechanism for people with mental health conditions.

This campaign aims to address the common myths and misconceptions around the topic and promote the benefits of quitting smoking for your mental health.

These benefits include improved mood, feeling more positive and lower levels of stress and irritability. This is all while helping you to enjoy a longer, healthier life, protecting the health of those around you and saving you money.

You can learn more about the Smokefree Starts campaign on their website or watch the campaign launch video on the Smokefree Starts YouTube channel.

Getting the right support can really help if you’re thinking about quitting smoking and NHS Yorkshire Smokefree Barnsley is here to help you.

They offer a wide range of free, confidential support, including their online quit tool, advice helpline, in-person clinics and free stop smoking products as part of the Swap to Stop scheme. Find out how they can help you by visiting their website.

If you’re looking for help to pick the best support for you, you can also speak to their friendly, trained advisors by calling 01226 644364 and selecting option two.

The campaign has been launched as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, with this year’s theme being about movement and moving more for our mental health.

There are so many brilliant outdoor spaces to enjoy in Barnsley, no matter how you want to get moving, helping you to live well and feel better. We want to encourage physical activity across the borough, which is all month long, we’re excited to be hosting the Barnsley Walking Festival.

Offering a wide variety of mostly free events to help you enjoy the outdoors, you can learn more about this year’s Walking Festival at

Councillor Wendy Cain, Cabinet Spokesperson for Public Health and Communities, said: “In Barnsley, we want to make sure everyone can get the right support to live happier, healthier, longer lives. It’s great to see Smokefree Starts being launched across South Yorkshire, shining a light on the many benefits quitting smoking can have on your mood and mental wellbeing.

“Working together with health colleagues across the region, we hope this campaign starts more conversations about not only smoking and mental health but also the support that’s available to help you on your quitting journey. If you’ve been thinking about giving up smoking, please speak to NHS Yorkshire Smokefree Barnsley to find out how they can help you.”

David Crichton, Medical Director of NHS South Yorkshire, said: “As smoking prevalence is significantly higher in people with mental health conditions, it is crucial that smokers, their family members and friends begin to understand the impact smoking can have on mental wellbeing.

“Smokers with these conditions should know that stopping smoking doesn’t have to be stressful. It is easier to stop with the right support, and we have the expertise to get them through it. Addressing misconceptions and increasing awareness of the link between smoking and mental health among healthcare professionals is also imperative, and we need to be having more conversations with smokers about these impacts.”

If you’re concerned about your mental health and wellbeing, please know that you’re not alone. Visit to learn more about how you can access support, local support groups and tips for looking after your own mental health.

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