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NC Center Expands Smoking-Cessation Program for Behavioral-Health Patients

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The smoking rate for individuals with a behavioral health disorder is nearly twice that of the general population, according to the American Lung Association. (Adobe Stock)
The smoking rate for individuals with a behavioral health disorder is nearly twice that of the general population, according to the American Lung Association. (Adobe Stock)
January 14, 2021

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Smoking is prevalent among people with substance-use disorders, but tobacco-prevention efforts often overlook this population.

The McLeod Addictive Disease Center in Charlotte is trying to change that.

Mary Ward, president of the center, said a recent community mini-grant from the American Heart Association and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina will allow the organization to expand its nicotine-replacement therapy program for residential patients.

"And what we learned in surveying patients is that patients really were interested in receiving some type of therapy or care for nicotine addiction," Ward reported.

About 1 in 4 adults in the U.S. has some form of a behavioral health condition, and smokes nearly 40% of all cigarettes consumed by adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ward noted smoking and other health-harming behaviors are on the rise, as households cope with increasing anxiety, depression, financial hardship and uncertainty amid the pandemic.

She added even folks who work from home are feeling the effects.

"The blurring of the 9-to-5 business day. People beginning to drink much earlier in the day," Ward outlined. "The ability to hide it, if you will, even in a drinking vessel when you're on a video call."

Shannon Emmanuel, vice president for health strategy at the American Heart Association, said quitting smoking is guaranteed to improve the health of North Carolinians during the pandemic and beyond.

She pointed out one vaping pod is equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes.

"Tobacco cessation and vaping efforts is a very big part of the work that we do, as it has a direct correlation with your cardiovascular health," Emmanuel explained.

Smoking is a major cause of heart disease and is linked to one out of every four deaths from heart attack.

Doctors say the risk of heart disease increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day and from long-term smoking. Research shows exposure to secondhand smoke can also trigger heart disease in nonsmokers.

Disclosure: American Heart Association of North Carolina contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC