Anxiety and depression is 70 percent more likely to occur in smokers than non-smokers, despite the widespread view that lighting up a cigarette is a stress reliever, says a study published on Tuesday.
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) report -- issued ahead of No Smoking Day on March 11 -- says quitting smoking could improve mental health.
"This No Smoking Day we're calling on smokers to bust the common myths associated with smoking and commit to quitting on March 11. We're expecting nearly one million smokers to attempt to quit on the day," it said.
The study of nearly 6,500 people over the age of 40 found that 18.3 percent of smokers reported suffering depression and anxiety compared with 10 percent of non-smokers and 11.3 percent of ex-smokers.
This goes against the perception of more than a third (36 percent) of UK smokers who told researchers they believe the habit helps relieve stress, BHF said.
"There is a belief from many smokers that smoking reduces anxiety and stress, which is in turn causing many smokers to put off quitting," said the foundation's associate medical director Dr Mike Knapton.
"Yet, instead of aiding people to relax, smoking increases anxiety and tension. When smokers light up, the feeling of reduced stress or relaxation is temporary and is soon replaced by withdrawal symptoms and cravings," Knapton said.
The study cited Ria Wood, a 45-year-old ex-smoker, as saying: "When you smoke, its second nature to want a cigarette and you constantly make excuses as to why you can't quit. You keep telling yourself 'things are too stressful, I will quit next week'.
"Once I quit, I really did feel the difference. I noticed changes to my appearance straight away, but I also noticed I felt better and less stressed. Now I don't walk around worried about when I'm going to have my next cigarette," she said.