Smoking prevalence 70% higher among adults with versus without mental illness

Report from CDC and SAMHSA shows that 36% of adults with versus 21% without some form of mental illness smoke cigarettes.

Adults who have some form of mental illness smoke at a 70% higher rate than adults with no mental illness, CDC and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported in a February 5 Vital Signs report. Data from the report showed that 36% of adults with a mental illness smoke cigarettes, while only 21% of adults who do not have a mental illness are cigarette smokers.

The findings also were published on February 5 as a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report early-release article, and video clips of the Vital Signs report also are available.

About one in five (45.7 million) Americans have some type of mental illness. Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence was reported to be particularly high among younger adults, American Indians and Alaska Natives, those below the poverty line, and adults with lower education levels. Differences across states also were seen, with smoking prevalence ranging from 18.2% in Utah to 48.7% in West Virginia.

Data from the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2009–11) were used to determine estimates of cigarette smoking among adults (18 years or older) who reported having any mental illness. Mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder in the previous 12 months. Developmental and substance use disorders were not considered mental illnesses.

“People with mental illness who smoke, like other people who smoke, want to quit and can quit," said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. "Treatments to help stop smoking work, but they're not used enough,” he added.

The research also showed that adult smokers with mental illness smoked a greater number of cigarettes per month (331) than those without mental illness (310). In addition, adults with mental illness who smoke are less likely to quit smoking cigarettes than adult smokers without mental illness.

SAMHSA and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center have developed the 100 Pioneers for Smoking Cessation Campaign, which provides support for mental health facilities and organizations to undertake tobacco cessation efforts. Also, the Break Free Alliance—a CDC grantee—is working with national partners to address tobacco use in individuals with mental illnesses.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death and disease in the United States and throughout the world. Approximately 443,000 people die prematurely from smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, while another 8.6 million live with a serious illness caused by smoking.

Help quitting smoking is available by calling 800-QUIT-NOW (800-784-8669) or visiting Information on quitting and preventing children from using tobacco also is available at the HHS site,

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