Mentally Ill keep Big Tobacco profitable – dying to smoke

By David Joel Miller

Mentally ill and substance abusers are major consumers of tobacco products.



Those with a mental or emotional health problem continue to be major consumers of tobacco products.

A recent government study reported that 40% of those with a mental illness smoke cigarettes.

This is almost double the rate of smoking among the general public.

There was a time when the rate of smoking among those with a DSM diagnosis, that is either substance abuse or mental illness was reported as topping 50%. While this most recent study suggests a slight decrease in smoking by the mentally ill their rate of tobacco consumption continues to be far above that of other Americans. This decline however slight may well reflect a change in attitude among providers of services to the mentally ill.

We have discovered that having a mental illness can reduce your life expectancy by twenty years or more. On average those with a mental illness live shorter lives than those without similar challenges. Despite the existence of treatment that significantly reduce the impact of having a mental illness, we continue to have long-term health problems associated with having developed a mental illness.

In the past, many professionals took the position that with all the challenges the mentally ill had why were we trying them to get them to give up smoking or other things they found pleasurable even if those practices were impairing their health. The attitude of professionals is changing.

Recovery includes not only recover from their mental illness or substance abuse problem but from other unhealthy lifestyle choices. It is not the role of professionals to decide for our clients how they will live. Sometimes they make unhealthy choices. But they deserve the same care and advice about the dangers of unhealthy practices that other people receive. Long-term effects of substance abuse can increase mental health symptoms while impairing health.

Some things, like smoking cigarettes and abusing street drugs, are so high-risk any recovering person should consider giving them up. Recovery is not just about giving things up. It should also include positive steps to improve health and activity. Putting away the cigarettes may be a start on your efforts to create a new healthier and happier you.

Till next time, David Miller, LMFT, LPCC

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books


One thought on “Mentally Ill keep Big Tobacco profitable – dying to smoke

  1. Pingback: If you’re mentally ill can you work? What profession or job for the mentally ill? | counselorssoapbox

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s