People with Behavioral Health Conditions Encounter Barriers to Quitting Successfully

Most people who smoke want to quit, and more than half of them try to do so each year. Adults with mental health conditions who smoke want to quit, are able to quit, and have a better chance of quitting successfully when they have access to treatment.37

Proven treatments, such as FDA-approved medicines and behavioral counseling, make it more likely people will quit smoking successfully. People with behavioral health conditions can have challenges when trying to find and use these treatments:

  • In 2016, about half of mental health facilities (49%) and two-thirds of substance use treatment facilities (64%) screened patients for commercial tobacco* use.9 However, fewer than half of mental health and substance use treatment facilities in the United States offered proven treatments to help people quit smoking.9,38
  • Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals are less likely to talk about quitting smoking with patients who have behavioral health conditions. This may be due to misperceptions about patient’s willingness or ability to quit.39

Connecting every person who wants to quit with treatment proven to help them quit for good is important for improving people’s health.

Examples of strategies that states and communities can use are:
no smoking messages

Provide barrier-free, widely promoted, coverage for all evidence-based cessation treatments by all types of health insurance.
For example, as of 2018, only 15 state Medicaid programs fully covered tobacco cessation (quitting) services for all traditional Medicaid enrollees.40


Integrate clinical screening and treatment for commercial tobacco use in all health care settings and with all types of patients.
Talking to people about commercial tobacco use and quitting as a regular part of health care visits in all care settings will help make sure that all groups can get effective treatment to help them quit.41

helping hands around no smoking sign

Increase access to culturally tailored cessation services.
When it comes to health issues, one size does not fit all. Different people and communities have varying needs and make decisions in different ways. People with behavioral health conditions may need more intensive treatment, or need treatment for a longer time, to quit smoking.18

no smoking symbol around buildings

Make all behavioral health care settings tobacco-free, with no exceptions.
Tobacco-free campus policies that prohibit use of all commercial tobacco products can support people who want to quit, make tobacco-free places the norm, and stop exposure to secondhand smoke.41 On campuses that are not entirely tobacco-free, management can put in place rules to prevent staff from smoking with residents or providing cigarettes as an incentive or reward.29,41

no smoking messages

Share health messages that feature people with behavioral health conditions and their experiences.
Mass media campaigns are proven to increase smoking cessation, prevent tobacco use initiation, and reduce the prevalence of tobacco use.24,42 Anti-commercial tobacco messaging and mass media campaigns, like CDC’s Tips From Former Smokers® (Tips®), are effective in reaching many groups. Tips ads feature testimonials from people with behavioral health conditions. Positive reactions to Tips ads have been shown to lead to more quit attempts.43

*“Commercial tobacco” means harmful products that are made and sold by tobacco companies. It does not include “traditional tobacco” used by Indigenous groups for religious or ceremonial purposes.
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