November 17, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Mental Health, Department of

ADMH Encourages Service Populations to Kick Habit During Great American Smokeout

Proud that facilities have been tobacco-free for nearly two years

MONTGOMERY – A study by The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that 44.3 percent of all cigarettes in America are consumed by individuals who live with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders and that people living with mental illnesses are about twice as likely to smoke as other people. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there is no single reason why so many people with mental illnesses smoke, but a combination of psychological effects and their social world may be contributing factors. Because smoking kills about 200,000 people with mental illnesses each year, the Alabama Department of Mental Health is encouraging Alabamians with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders to take advantage of the Great American Smokeout observance to kick the habit.

Today marks the 36th anniversary of the Great American Smokeout. Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, the observance encourages smokers to use the date to make a plan to quit, or to plan in advance and quit smoking that day. According to the ACS, tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the U.S.

Nearly two and a half years ago, ADMH leadership created the Tobacco Free Environment Implementation Planning Workgroup prompted by new research, which showed that persons with serious mental illnesses live 25 years fewer than the general population. The research also concluded the high rate of tobacco use among those with mental illnesses contributed substantially to this lowered life expectancy. Through the workgroup’s careful planning and coordination, including a step-down process, educational sessions for consumers and trainings for staff, ADMH inpatient psychiatric facilities and grounds became tobacco-free on January 1, 2010.

Nearly two years later, ADMH is proud of the initiative’s success. A low level of incidents have been reported since the facilities became tobacco-free. Discoveries of contraband and smoking violations, which were expected from the beginning, occur rarely with clients and have been addressed appropriately by treatment teams. Likewise, the workgroup has ensured visitors, families and guests are aware of the tobacco-free environment through posted signs and lists of prohibited items posted at sign-in desks. To ensure the initiative’s long-term success, educational materials and sessions continue to be provided as part of the facilities’ treatment services, along with medications and other cessation methods.

The workgroup continues to monitor the initiative, and is constantly gathering data and life-changing stories from staff and clients to show its benefits. Among those stories, one ADMH patient said, “I started smoking at a very early age. It looked cool, and I could see all my favorite actors on TV puffing on their favorite brands. Seeing people on TV smoking, as well as the nicotine, reinforced my habit. As I got older I had to make a decision – quit or die. With a little help from my friends and the staff here, I kicked the habit, and I breathe a little easier!” Another patient shared, “Since I have been here and had to stop smoking, I have more energy. I chew a gum to curb my cravings and it really helps. I’m not wheezing anymore!” ADMH non-smoking staff has also expressed appreciation as secondhand smoke was eliminated from their work environment.



For Alabamians who want to quit smoking, the Alabama Department of Public Health’s Quitline offers counseling, a personalized quit plan and four weeks of free nicotine replacement therapy patches for those enrolled and medically eligible. The website and 800-QUITNOW line offer the same free program to those who prefer to talk with a counselor to help them quit.

The American Cancer Society’s website is also a useful resource for those who want more information or want to quit. The site, located at, offers a guide to quitting smoking, desktop helpers, resources and tools, and much more.

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