American adults with mental illness smoke a lot more than adults without any mental illness, with a smoking rate close to 70 percent higher.

The finding comes from a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

Smoking is one of the leading causes of death in the world, it causes around 443,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. The health risks associated with smoking include: coronary artery disease (hardening of the arteries) which can lead to stroke, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The authors also explained that around 36 percent of adults with mental illness smoke versus only 21 percent of those without.

The prevalence of mental illness among American adults is approximately 20% – 1 in five adults has some form of mental illness. This rate is even higher among young adults and those who are poorly educated and living below the poverty line.

The authors estimated what the rates for smoking and mental illness were nationally and by state. They defined mental illness as being any diagnosable emotional, mental, or behavioral disorder, not including substance use disorders.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., said:

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

In addition to an increased prevalence of smoking, smokers with mental illness also smoke more cigarettes than smokers without mental illness – about 20 more cigarettes a month, or 240 more per year. They also find it much harder to give up.

SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, said:

“Special efforts are needed to raise awareness about the burden of smoking among people with mental illness and to monitor progress in addressing this disparity,”

SAMHSA along with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC) have developed a range of activities aimed at helping people quit smoking. The 100 Pioneers for Smoking Cessation Campaign provides support for mental health organizations to tackle the current smoking problem among those who are mentally ill.

The campaign aims to eliminate tobacco use among people with behavioral health needs. Policymakers and stakeholders, including leaders in tobacco control and public health, developed this collaborative action plan.

The CDC is currently working alongside state tobacco control programs and other partners to address this issue of smoking among the mentally ill. An example is the Break Free Alliance, which is a CDC grantee working to reduce smoking rates among people with mental health issues.

Almost 10% of teenagers with mental health conditions drink alcohol, and smoke tobacco as well as cannabis, according to a report in the journal BMJ Open. These findings suggest that people with mental health problems are more susceptible to starting smoking and taking other abusive substances.

A study from Massachusetts General Hospitalconfirmed that adolescents with bipolar disorder are much more likely to be regular smokers than their “mentally healthy” peers.

Written by Joseph Nordqvist