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More Smokers among the Mentally Ill

February 11, 2013
Plain English Version

In general, Americans are putting out their cigarettes. One study of adult males showed that 53 percent were smoking in the mid-1960s. By 2011, the overall number of adults smoking had decreased dramatically to only 21 percent.

For the mentally ill, the percentages are significantly different. About 36 percent of mentally ill adults currently are smoking.

About 46 million Americans have a mental illness. That is one in every five of American adults. Mental illness includes psychological distress, such as schizophrenia, phobias or depression.

Mentally ill adults, including young adults, Native Americans, and less educated and lower income people, are heavier smokers. They are also less likely to quit. And they start at an earlier age.

Some say that mental health programs may not encourage people to quit smoking because it might interfere with treatment. That is changing. Some programs now ban smoking.

Experts say we need better programs to help smokers quit, including programs that are given over longer periods.

Smoking is the leading cause of illnesses that end in death.

The Wall Street Journal

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