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Mentally Ill Up to 70 Percent More Likely to Smoke: CDC

Update Date: Feb 05, 2013 04:07 PM EST
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published a report that reveals that people who suffer from mental illness are up to 70 percent more likely to smoke cigarettes for their peers. The results are a troubling reminder that public health campaigns against smoking still have a long way to go.

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According to Health Day, the report found that 36 percent of people with mental illness smoked cigarettes, compared to 21 percent of individuals without mental illness. Mental illness was defined by the health bureau "as a diagnosable mental, behavioral or emotional disorder," the CDC said, rather than a developmental or substance abuse problem.

To add to the concern, rates of cigarette smoking was particularly high among mental ill people who lived below the poverty line (48 percent), who were between the ages of 18 and 24 (42 percent), who were between the ages of 25 to 44 (41 percent) and who were American Indian or an Alaska Native (55 percent).

By state, the rate of smokers who were mentally ill varied. In Utah, a comparatively paltry 18 percent of people smoked; in West Virginia, that number rose to nearly half,  with 48.7 percent.

Adults who were mentally ill and who smoked cigarettes were more likely to smoke more cigarettes, smoking an average of 331 a month compared to 310 for people who were not mentally ill. Mentally ill smokers were also less likely to quit.

The picture is nearly as grim for teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 who suffer from mental illness. According to a study published in BMJ Open by Australian researchers, 12 percent of teenagers with mental illness said that they drank once a week. In addition, 7 percent said that they smoked marijuana once a week, and 23 percent said they smoked cigarettes once a week.

Researchers do not yet know why the smoking rate is higher among the mentally ill, SCPR reports. They suggest that cigarette smoke may help to mask some of the symptoms of their conditions. They believe that cigarette smoke may metabolize mental health medications more quickly, so individuals need to smoke more cigarettes to receive the same amount of relief.

The CDC acknowledges that the tobacco industry has created an image that cigarettes can help the mentally ill self-medicate, as well as provided free or reduced-charge cigarettes to psychiatric centers. The industry has also blocked attempts to make psychiatric facilities smoke-free.

The CDC reports that smoking causes about 20 percent of deaths in the United States per year - about 443,000 deaths a year in all.

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