Objective: To examine smoking prevalence and smoking behaviour among South Australians with a mental illness and compare findings to those with no mental illness.
Method: Data were collected in three cross-sectional representative population surveys of South Australians aged ≥15 years from 2005 to 2007. Merged data yielded a total sample size of 8417. The main outcome measures were: smoking prevalence, measures of tobacco dependence, awareness of the health effects of active and passive smoking, smoke-free homes and cars, awareness of health warnings, and use of cessation aids by two measures of mental illness status.
Results: Overall 26.4% of the population with a general mental illness and 51.2% of the population with a severe mental illness smoked, compared to 18.7% of the population without a mental illness. People with a mental illness, particularly severe mental illness displayed higher measures of tobacco dependence. Smokers with a severe mental illness were less likely to have smoke-free homes (OR = 0.29, 95%CI 0.16-0.55). Television was an effective medium to present the health effects of smoking to all groups. Those with a general mental illness were more likely than those with no mental illness to have asked a general practitioner for advice to help them quit in the past year (OR = 2.02, 95%CI 1.07-3.84).
Conclusions: Whilst smokers with a mental illness are more dependent on their smoking; they are interested in quitting. There are a number of mainstream tobacco control strategies that could be further utilized (e.g. mass media and health professional referrals to the Quitline) to increase cessation among this disadvantaged group.