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Vital Signs

Vital Signs

To make CDC health information more accessible to the public, more interesting to the media, and more relevant to policymakers, CDC has created Vital Signs—a monthly publication that uses concise and compelling data to communicate vital health information on select topics. The CDC Vital Signs topic for February 2013 is Adult Smoking: Focusing on People with Mental Illness.

The Vital Signs program has several parts, including a Vital Signs MMWR, a fact sheet and a Web site that mirrors the fact sheet, a media release, and announcements via social media tools.

Adult Smoking: Focusing on People with Mental Illness

Cigarette smoking is the leading preventable cause of disease, disability, and death in the United States. Despite overall declines in smoking, more people with mental illness smoke than people without mental illness. Because many people with mental illness smoke, many of them will get sick and die early from smoking.

Recent research has shown that, like other smokers, adults with mental illness who smoke want to quit, can quit, and benefit from proven stop-smoking treatments. Some mental health providers and facilities have made progress in this area, while others are now beginning to address tobacco use. Mental health facilities can benefit by making their campuses 100% smoke-free and by making stopping tobacco use part of an overall approach to treatment and wellness. It is critical that people with mental illness get the mental health services they need and are able to get help to quit smoking to improve their overall health and wellness.

Take Action!

Federal agencies and national partners are working to reduce tobacco use among people with mental illness, including:

  • Helping states develop action plans to reduce smoking by people with mental illness.
  • Providing funding to promising state and local programs that make stop-smoking treatment part of mental health treatment and wellness.
  • Making stop-smoking treatments more available to people who want to quit.
  • Conducting research focused on the health and longevity of people with mental illness.
  • Providing information to mental health treatment facilities on the benefits of tobacco-free campus policies (i.e., no use of any tobacco product inside the facility or anywhere on its grounds). Several states are already putting these policies in place.

More progress can be achieved:

By Mental Health Professionals
  • Asking their patients if they use tobacco; if they do, helping them quit.
  • Offering proven quitting treatments, including tailored quit assistance, to patients who use tobacco.
    • Referring patients interested in quitting to 1-800-QUIT-NOW or other resources.
    • Providing more counseling, support, and stop-smoking medicines.
  • Making quitting tobacco part of an overall approach to treatment and wellness.
  • Monitoring and adjusting mental health medicines as needed in people trying to quit using tobacco.
By Mental Health Facilities
  • Including quitting treatments as part of mental health treatment and wellness.
  • Stopping practices that encourage tobacco use (such as not providing cigarettes to patients and not allowing staff to smoke with patients).
  • Making their entire campus 100% smoke-free as noted in the 2006 Surgeon General's Report.
By State and Community Leaders
  • Helping mental health and tobacco control programs to work together to reduce tobacco use among people with mental illness.
  • Encouraging state mental health and addiction agencies to put in place tobacco quitting programs and tobacco-free campuses.
  • Supporting sustained, evidence-based tobacco control programs.
By People with Mental Illness
  • Deciding to quit using tobacco right away. The sooner they stop, the sooner their bodies can begin to heal, and the less likely they are to get sick from tobacco use.
  • Asking their doctors and mental health treatment providers for help to quit.
  • Calling 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free help quitting and going to for a step-by-step quit guide.
  • Avoiding secondhand smoke; making their home and vehicles smoke-free.
  • Supporting friends who are trying to quit.

Links to this Vital Signs Topic


Related Vital Signs Reports


Campaigns and Multimedia

  • You Can Quit. Learn more…
  • Ready to quit smoking? Make sure you have what it takes.
  • CDC 24/7 – Saving Lives, Protecting People, Saving Money. Learn More About How CDC Works For You…