Newsroom > DHHS News Release

November 19, 2009

Marla Augustine, Communications and Legislative Services, (402) 471-4047

Tobacco-Free Life an Important Part of Recovery from a Mental Illness

Lincoln - Freedom from cigarettes means not only better health, but a better quality of life, especially for people with a mental illness, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

“The statistics about the health of people with mental illnesses are daunting and show that on average, these individuals die 25 years earlier than the general population,” said Carol Coussons de Reyes, administrator of the DHHS Office of Consumer Affairs. “Many of the years lost are due to smoking-related diseases and other preventable causes of illness and death.”

According to a study by the University of California:

  • 44% of all cigarettes produced in the U.S. are smoked by people with mental illnesses;
  • Nearly 50% (200,000) of the 435,000 tobacco-related deaths in the U.S. each year are among people with mental illness diagnoses; and
  • Compared to the general population, smoking is more common among people with mental health diagnoses. For people with bipolar disorder, 70% smoke; with major depression or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 60% smoke; or with schizophrenia, 90% smoke.

The good news is that Nebraska residents have 24/7, free access to counseling and support services through the toll-free Nebraska Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669). Calls are answered by the American Cancer Society and give a choice of services, including: telephone counseling, self-help materials, referrals to community programs, or a combination of these.

“Cigarette smoking is one of our most important public health issues,” said Dr. Joann Schaefer, Chief Medical Officer for DHHS. “Telephone quitlines — like the Nebraska Tobacco Quitline — have been proven to double your chances of quitting successfully.”

If someone you love lives with smoking addiction and mental health, make a difference and encourage them to call the Quitline, to go to or to visit