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Smokers with Self-Reported Mental Health Conditions: A Case for Screening in the Context of Tobacco Cessation Services.

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People with mental health conditions (MHC) smoke at high rates and many die prematurely from smoking-related illnesses. Smoking cessation programs, however, generally do not screen for MHC. This study examined the utility of MHC screening in a large tobacco quitline to determine whether self-reported MHC predicts service utilization and quitting behaviors.

Methods & findings

A brief set of question on MHC was embedded in the routine intake of a state quitline, and 125,261 smokers calling from June 2012 to September 2015 were asked the questions. Quit attempt rate and 6-month success rate were analyzed for a random subset of participants. Overall, 52.2% of smokers reported at least one MHC. Demographic patterns like gender or ethnic difference in self-reported MHC were similar to that in the general population. Depression disorder was reported most often (38.6%), followed by anxiety disorder (33.8%), bipolar disorder (17.0%), drug/alcohol abuse (11.9%), and schizophrenia (7.9%). Among those reporting any MHC, about two-thirds reported more than 1 MHC. Smokers with MHC received more counseling than smokers with no MHC. Quit attempt rates were high for all three groups (>70%). The probability of relapse was greater for those with more than one MHC than for those with one MHC (p<0.005), which in turn was greater than those with no MHC (p < .01). The six-month prolonged abstinence rates for the three conditions were, 21.8%, 28.6%, and 33.7%, respectively. The main limitation of this study is the use of a non-validated self-report question to assess MHC, even though it appears to be useful for predicting quitting behavior.


Smokers with MHC actively seek treatment to quit. Smoking cessation services can use a brief set of questions to screen for MHC to help identify smokers in need of more intensive treatment to quit smoking.

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