Mental Illness and Smoking

Blog Post created by dr_hurt on Dec 4, 2009

The percentage of people who smoke is significantly more among those who have been diagnosed with a mental illness compared with those who do not have any mental health problem.  While there may be many reasons for this, one factor is that many people who care for those with mental health problems have not considered it a priority.  For a long time the thinking seems to have been…”people with mental illness have enough to worry about without trying to stop smoking, plus it’s almost impossible for them to quit.”

While it is important to manage serious mental health symptoms, stopping smoking should be kept on the list of goals, and attempts to stop smoking should be encouraged during times that the psychiatric symptoms are stable.  Each time a person makes an attempt to stop smoking, the likelihood of success increases.  So even if a quit attempt doesn’t “stick”, it is better than not making a quit attempt at all.  People with a mental illness diagnosis CAN be successful at stopping smoking, and their chances of success increases with proper support, encouragement, and use of proven effective techniques. It is important to keep in mind that smoking is the single most likely cause of death among people with mental illness.  They deserve help for stopping smoking just as much, if not more, than everyone else. To learn more about EX and our free quit-plan where you or a loved one can re-learn life without smoking, visit www.BecomeAnEX.org.


Dr. Richard D. Hurt is an internationally recognized expert on tobacco dependence. A native of Murray, Kentucky, he joined Mayo Clinic in 1976 and is now a Professor of Medicine at its College of Medicine. In 1988, he founded the Mayo Clinic Nicotine Dependence Center and since then its staff has treated over 33,000 patients for tobacco dependence. Send your questions directly to Dr. Hurt at AskTheExpert@becomeanex.org