New CDC Study Shows Urgent Need for Tobacco Cessation, Smokefree Protections to be Included as Part of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Programs

Statement of American Lung Association National President and CEO Harold P. Wimmer, in response to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) article titled, "Tobacco Cessation Interventions and Smoke-Free Policies in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities — United States, 2016":

"While great progress has been made in reducing cigarette smoking rates among adults, the behavioral health population (those with mental illness and/or substance use disorders) has not benefited equally from this progress. Today's study highlights that mental health and substance abuse treatment facilities are simply not doing enough to protect patients from secondhand smoke exposure and get patients the help they need to quit smoking. Less than half of mental health treatment facilities and just over a third of substance abuse treatment facilities have a smokefree campus policy in place to protect clients and staff from secondhand smoke exposure. Less than half of either type of facility offered cessation counseling and even fewer provided cessation medications to clients.

"The behavioral health population has extremely high smoking rates and due in large part to their tobacco use, people with serious mental illness die on average 25 years younger than the general population. As a result, it is imperative this population be addressed in tobacco control efforts including tobacco free policies and access to cessation counseling and FDA-approved medications to help them quit.

"This study is an important reminder that the tobacco control and behavioral health communities need to work more closely together to help tobacco users quit and protect everyone from the dangers of secondhand smoke. Everyone deserves the chance to lead a healthy life, including those whose circumstances have made them vulnerable to poor health.

"With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Lung Association has partnered with Mental Health America on Smokefree at Home: Implementing Smokefree Policies at HUD Properties. The project is linked to HUD's rule requiring all public housing agencies to adopt smokefree policies by July 30, 2018, and will ensure that members of the behavioral health community are supported to comply with the smokefree policy, remain in their homes and for those interested in quitting smoking, they have access to cessation support to help them quit for good.

"This disparity in tobacco use cannot continue. Members of the behavioral health population deserve to breathe smokefree air and get the help they need to quit smoking for good. The American Lung Association stands ready to provide guidance on tobacco-free policies, information about insurance coverage and reimbursement and smoking cessation programs to members of and organizations serving the behavioral health population."

For media interested in speaking with an expert on quit smoking resources and tobacco-related health disparities, contact the American Lung Association at [email protected] or 312-801-7628.

For more information, contact:

Allison MacMunn
[email protected]

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