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Smoking and Mental Illness a Deadly Combination

April 3, 2009

Lansing, MI - Mental health professionals are beginning a new education campaign against smoking. New information from the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, and other mental health advocacy and education organizations, shows people with mental illnesses account for nearly half of all the smoking-related deaths in the U.S. They also tend to smoke at twice the rate as the general population and find it much more difficult to quit.

Jane Shank, family advocate with the Association for Children's Mental Health, says those with mental health problems may be more prone to addictions.

"Mental illnesses are a combination of wiring and chemistry in the brain, and sometimes that ties in too with the addictive behavior. Increased stress might contribute to that tendency."

Even discounting the ravages of smoking, says Shank, those with mental illnesses still die at a younger age.

"There's already a tendency to have a shortened life span because of the toll that the mental illness takes on their everyday life."

The Center reports that 44 percent of adults with serious mental illness are smokers, compared with about 20 percent for society at large. Half of the 435,000 annual deaths from smoking are among people with mental illnesses, with many dying 10 to 25 years younger than the general population. While those with mental illness can participate in the same programs used by the general public to stop smoking, including the patch and therapy, typically they are only half as likely to quit as other smokers.

Information from the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center is at www.smokingcessationleadership.ucsf.edu.

Tony Bruscato, Public News Service - MI