Issue 4
Monday, 01 June 2020
Charles Darwin University
A new study raises questions about smoking’s ability to relieve stress
A new study raises questions about smoking’s ability to relieve stress

Stress not a barrier to quitting smokes

Stress may not be a major long-term obstacle to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people quitting smoking, as previously believed, according to new research released by Menzies School of Health Research (Menzies).

The study found that more smokers who reported being stressed at baseline made quit attempts and stayed quit for longer in the next year, contrary to past research that mainly reported smokers’ perceptions that stress caused them to go back to smoking.  

The national Talking About the Smokes study involved 759 participants who completed baseline surveys and follow-up surveys a year later.

Many health professionals and smokers believe that smoking relieves stress. But this relief may be merely because smoking a cigarette relieves the recurring symptoms of nicotine withdrawal caused by the time elapsed since their previous cigarette. 

Study leader, Professor David Thomas said health staff could emphasise the research evidence of the benefits to stress management, mental health and wellbeing that came with successfully quitting smoking.

“Being more stressed or depressed could be seen as a reason to advise a smoker to quit rather than to put it off,” Professor Thomas said.   

“This is very important in these stressful times, and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who experience more stressful events.

“Quitting smoking is always a good first step in improving your health and can increase your confidence to take on bigger problems.”

Just under two in five (37%) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 and over smoke daily, down from 45% in 2008. 

The study was conducted in partnership with the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation, its affiliates, 34 Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Torres Shire Council. 

The study was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health and available at: W: