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Smoking more prevalent among mentally ill people


Adults with some form of mental illness have a smoking rate 70% higher than adults with no mental illness, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.

Researchers found that 36% of adults with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21% of adults who do not have a mental illness.

Nearly one in five adults in the United States — about 45.7 million Americans — have some type of mental illness, according to the report. Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians and Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states, with prevalence ranging from 18.2% in Utah to 48.7% in West Virginia.

Combined data from SAMHSA’s 2009–2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health were used to calculate national and state estimates of cigarette smoking among adults ages 18 and older who reported having any mental illness. In the report, mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months.

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

The report confirms that on average adult smokers with mental illness smoke more cigarettes per month than those without mental illness (331 vs. 310 cigarettes). Adult smokers with mental illness also are less likely to quit smoking cigarettes than adult smokers without mental illness.

“Special efforts are needed to raise awareness about the burden of smoking among people with mental illness and to monitor progress in addressing this disparity,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

The report appears in the February issue of Vital Signs. To read the report, including steps being taken at the federal level to address the issue of smoking among people with mental illness, visit


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