Adults Experiencing Mental Illness or a Substance Use Disorder Account for Nearly 40 Percent of all Cigarettes Smoked

Adults aged 18 or older who experienced any mental illness or who have had a substance use disorder in the past year are more likely to smoke and to smoke more heavily than others according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

According to the report, adults experiencing any mental illness or a substance use disorder in the past year represent 24.8 percent of the adult population, but that same group used 39.6 percent of all cigarettes smoked by adults.

In terms of rates of cigarette smoking, 38.3 percent of adults experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders were current smokers as opposed to 19.7 percent of those adults without these conditions. That means that the rate of current cigarette smoking among adults experiencing mental illness or substance use disorders is 94 percent higher than among adults without these disorders.

The report reveals that although people with substance use disorders and no mental disorder constitute only 4.9 percent of adults over age 18, they smoked 8.7 percent of all cigarettes. Similarly, although those who had experienced both mental illness and a substance use disorder represented only 3.8 percent of the population in the past year, they smoked 9.5 percent of all cigarettes.

The report defines any mental illness as any diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder other than a substance use disorder. The report defines a substance use disorder as dependence on or abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs.

“It has long been a public health priority to develop effective smoking prevention and cessation programs,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “This report highlights a clear disparity. It shows that people dealing with mental illness or substance abuse issues smoke more and are less likely to quit. We need to continue to strengthen efforts to figure out what works to reduce and prevent smoking for people with mental health conditions,” said Administrator Hyde.

To address the high rates of tobacco use among people with mental or substance use disorders, SAMHSA, in partnership with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC), has developed a portfolio of activities designed to promote tobacco cessation efforts in behavioral health care. SAMHSA and the SCLC launched the 100 Pioneers for Smoking Cessation Campaign, which provides support for mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities and organizations to undertake tobacco cessation efforts. This program has been expanded in conjunction with state Leadership Academies for Wellness and Smoking Cessation, whose goal is to reduce tobacco use among those with behavioral health needs. Participating states bring together policymakers and stakeholders (including leaders in tobacco control, mental health, substance abuse, public health, and consumers) to develop a collaborative action plan.


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