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Mentally Ill Adults Have Very High Smoking Rates

By Caroline Cassels
Medscape Medical News

burning cigarette

Feb. 8, 2013 -- Adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70% higher than adults with no mental illness, a new report suggests.

The report, from the CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), showed that 36% of the 45.7 million Americans with some type of mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21% of adults who do not have a mental illness.

"Smokers with mental illness, like other smokers, want to quit and can quit,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a prepared statement. "Stop-smoking treatments work -- and it’s important to make them more available to all people who want to quit.”

The report also shows that smoking among people with mental illness is especially high in younger adults, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states, with rates ranging from 18.2% in Utah to 48.7% in West Virginia.

The authors note that the public health implications of the report's findings include enhancing efforts to reduce smoking in this population.

"Proven population-based prevention strategies should be extended to persons with mental illness, including implementing tobacco-free campus policies in mental health facilities. Primary care and mental health-care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based cessation treatments," they write.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the U.S. and throughout the world. It is responsible for an estimated 443,000 deaths in the U.S. each year.

For quitting assistance, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or visit www.smokefree.gov. Also, visit www.BeTobaccoFree.gov for information on quitting and preventing children from using tobacco.

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