Smoking, Once Used to Reward, Faces a Ban in Mental Hospitals

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Hospitals often used cigarettes as incentives or rewards for taking medicine, following rules or attending therapy. Some programs still do. And smoking was endorsed by advocates for people with mental illness and family members, who sometimes sued to preserve smoking rights, considering cigarettes one of the few pleasures patients were allowed.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the nearly 46 million adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70 percent higher than those without mental illness, and consume about a third of the cigarettes in the country, though they make up one-fifth of the adult population.

People with psychiatric disorders are often “smoking heavier, their puffs are longer and they’re smoking it down to the end of the cigarette,” said William Riley, chief of the Science of Research and Technology Branch at the National Cancer Institute. With some diagnoses, like schizophrenia, rates are especially high.

A report by the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors said data suggested that people with the most serious mental illnesses die on average 25 years earlier than the general population, with many from smoking-exacerbated conditions like heart or lung disease.

by Pam Belluck, The New York Times

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