Adults with Mental Illness Smoke at Higher Rates, Government Report Finds

February 06, 2013

People with mental illness smoke at much higher rates than the U.S. population as a whole, but are as interested in quitting as other smokers and can quit successfully with more intensive smoking cessation treatment.

Those are the conclusions of a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report found that adults who suffer from mental illness are 70 percent more likely to be cigarette smokers.   About 36 percent of adults with mental illness smoke, compared to 21 percent of adults with no mental illness.

The report found that smokers with mental illness smoke more cigarettes per month and are less likely to quit smoking.  However, recent research has shown that smokers with mental illness are as interested in quitting as other smokers, are able to quit successfully and benefit from evidence-based cessation treatments such as medication and counseling, although they may need more intensive and longer treatment.

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

The CDC cites several factors that likely contribute to increased smoking among people with mental illness:

  • “Nicotine has mood-altering effects that put people with mental illness at higher risk for cigarette use and nicotine addiction.”

  • “People with mental illness are more likely to have stressful living conditions, be low income, and lack access to health insurance, health care, and help quitting. All of these factors make it more challenging to quit.”

  • “Evidence shows that there has been direct tobacco marketing to people with mental illness and other vulnerable groups of people.”

This report underscores the need for private and government health insurance plans to provide comprehensive coverage for smoking cessation treatments. The report also urges health care providers to screen for tobacco use and offer effective cessation treatments.

Free assistance in quitting smoking is available by calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visiting

Infographic: US Centers for Disease Control (2013)