In John Stapleton's recent commentary [1] on Banham & Gilbody's ‘The scandal of smoking and mental illness’ he writes: ‘There are some who argue that the sort of effective help to stop smoking described in this issue of Addiction and in other reviews should be denied people with mental illness, and all smokers. They argue that viewing tobacco dependence as a disorder and helping smokers individually in the way caring societies normally help those with health-related disorders is unnecessary and counter-productive.’ Our recent paper [2] is then cited in support of this claim.

However, our paper makes no reference at all to smokers with mental illness, contains no discussion about smoking as a disorder, and emphatically says nothing about denying treatment to anyone. Our paper describes the overwhelming neglect in cessation studies of the way that most successful ex-smokers stop, which is without assistance. Our final messages in the paper include ‘NRT, other prescribed pharmaceuticals, and professional counselling or support also help many smokers, but are certainly not necessary for quitting’.

One of us has, in fact, written recently on smoking and mental illness [3,4], including comment on how the excessive talking-up of smoking prevalence in the mentally ill promotes views that their smoking is somehow inevitable and may work against efforts to introduce policies and supports which might help mentally ill smokers to quit.

Declaration of interest