Friday, July 1, 2022

Mentally Ill Have Harder Time Quitting Smoking

A new study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine is sh owing that smoking rates in people who have poor mental health have remained the same for a decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there has been a significant decline in smoking rates by adults, but the adults that are quitting smoking are the adults who don’t have mental health issues.


The researchers, who are from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, also said that during the 10-year period studied, the smoking prevalence was greater in those people who had behavioral health conditions compared to the people who had better mental health. The lead author of the study was Marc Steinberg, who is an associate professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Scool. Steinberg said that the research found that even though smoking rates have been going down in New Jersey adults without the mental health issues, the smoking rates have remained the same for those who are suffering with mental health issues. This means that the tobacco control strategies are not impacting those who have poor mental health, or if the messages are getting to these people, it is not able to translate into successful smoking cessation. Dr. Steinberg, along with his colleagues, also looked at the number of quitting attempts by the current smokers, and they found that there was not much difference in the attempts to quit in relation to mental health.

The evidence of the study shows that while smoking has decreased in adults and people with mental illness attempt to quit smoking the same amounts of those who don’t have mental illness, there is a gap in the success rates between the mentally ill and non-mentally ill. The remaining smokers might more likely be people who are the hardest to treat, and the researchers say that the health disparities between the remaining smokers need to be looked into. Some of the health disparities include people who have mental illness and other people who have lower socioeconomic status. The individuals who have mental illness are approximately one-third of all adult smokers in the United States. The researchers of this study suggest that there needs to be alternative tobacco control strategies that could include targeted treatments for the vulnerable population, such as those who suffer from various mental health issues.

The researchers used data in New Jersey that was obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and was provided to the researchers by the New Jersey Department of Health. The data was collected from telephone surveys that were independently conducted in all 50 states, and it compiled chronic health information from adults who were over the age of 18, and then this information was pulled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The biggest revelation from this study is that the people with mental health issues are trying to quit smoking at the same rates as those who are not mentally ill, so it does show the mentally ill are trying to quit. There is likely an issue with the mentally ill having a hard time sticking to the gameplan when it comes to quitting smoking, meaning they might have a harder time with determination and self-motivation. People who are mentally ill, such as being depressed or bi-polar, might not have the self-motivation or determination to achieve something such as quitting smoking. Quitting smoking is very hard and you need to be very determined and you need a lot of self-control in order to maintain sobriety, so this is something a lot of mentally ill people have trouble with. There is also the issue of people who are mentally ill being on a lot of medications, which could interfere with the ability to stay away from substances that make them feel better. People who stop smoking get irritable and often times can get depressed or feel bad about themselves, especially during the first month when withdrawl and cravings are substantially high. People who are also mentally ill might have a harder time understanding how to quit smoking and stay away from the cigarettes, so while they hear the information, they cannot translate that into actions. Given this information, an alternative method to help the mentally ill might be giving them placebos which could trick their brains to make them think they are getting the nicotine, even though they really aren’t. It is hard to say what is making it more difficult for them to quit smoking, even though they are trying just the same as those without mental illness, which means more research might need to be done in order to figure out whether or not there is another piece to this, such as them having a different reaction in their brains to the nicotine.

Another part to this is that people who are mentally ill often times don’t have a support system in place in their lives, such as friends and family, which makes it that much harder to quit smoking. People who are quitting the habit often need support from friends and family, so when you are not getting support from people around you, it can end up being more difficult to stop a bad habit. People with mental illness could start going to support groups, either in person or online, which can help them find the strength and compassion they need from others to be able to stop smoking and be successful at it. There are a lot of community support groups out there for people who want to quit smoking, including programs at hospitals that can help people stay off cigarettes, similar to AA or NA types of programs in terms of support from other people. Mentally ill people have a hard time developing and maintaining interpersonal relationships with others, which is why it is more difficult for them to find support in their friends or family groups, since they tend to distance themselves away and keep things close to the vest. In order to help the mentally ill overcome the habit of cigarettes, they might need to be more open to developing interpersonal relationships with others who are also going through the same things. For now though, more research will need to be completed in order to find out exactly why or how the mentally ill are having a more difficult time stopping smoking.


Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.


  1. —- Mentally Ill Have Harder Time Quitting

    Wanna bet?

    The studies were not done on the demographic you mention,
    we are a broad and diverse demographic, they were done on a specific and small
    subset thereof.

    As a broad and diverse demographic, our smoking habits
    differ little from other large demographics.

    To appreciate the findings of this study one would have to
    know specifically who was studied; it was not “the” mentally ill as stated in
    the article.

    Harold A. Maio, retired mental health

    [email protected]


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