Background: Cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States. Despite overall declines in cigarette smoking, a high prevalence of smoking persists among certain subpopulations, including persons with mental illness.
Methods: Combined data from the 2009-2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) were used to calculate national and state estimates of cigarette smoking among adults aged ≥18 years who had any mental illness (AMI), defined as having a mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months.
Results: During 2009-2011, an annual average of 19.9% of adults aged ≥18 years had AMI; among these persons, 36.1% were current smokers, compared with 21.4 % among adults with no mental illness. Smoking prevalence among those with AMI was highest among men, adults aged <45 years, and those living below the poverty level; smoking prevalence was lowest among college graduates. During 2009-2011, adults with AMI smoked 30.9% of all cigarettes smoked by adults. By U.S. region, smoking prevalence among those with AMI was lowest in the West (31.5%) and Northeast (34.7%) and highest in the Midwest (39.1%) and South (37.8%), with state prevalence ranging from 18.2% (Utah) to 48.7% (West Virginia).
Conclusions: The prevalence of cigarette smoking is high among adults with AMI, especially for younger adults, those with low levels of education, and those living below the poverty level; the prevalence varies by U.S. region.
Implications for public health practice: Increased awareness about the high prevalence of cigarette smoking among persons with mental illness is needed to enhance efforts to reduce smoking in this population. Proven population-based prevention strategies should be extended to persons with mental illness, including implementing tobacco-free campus policies in mental health facilities. Primary care and mental health-care providers should routinely screen patients for tobacco use and offer evidence-based cessation treatments. Given that persons with mental illness are at risk for multiple adverse behavioral and health outcomes, tobacco cessation will have substantial benefits, including a reduction in excess morbidity and mortality attributed to tobacco use.