SMOKERS who believe their habit relieves stress and depression are mistaken, according to new research.
Experts found that quitting smoking can be just as effective in tackling depression and anxiety as taking antidepressants.
Researchers from three universities in the UK analysed 26 studies for their study.
They found quitters experienced a significant drop in anxiety, depression and stress.
The effect was the same among the general population of smokers as those with a diagnosed mental health problem.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: "Smoking cessation is associated with reduced depression, anxiety, and stress and improved positive mood and quality of life compared with continuing to smoke."
The researchers said healthcare professionals who have been reluctant to offer stop-smoking advice to people with mental health disorders, for fear of quitting making them worse, should be encouraged by the findings.