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More mental health facilities are going smoke-free

More U.S. facilities that offer mental health treatment services have been going smoke-free, with nearly half of them reporting 100 percent smoke-free policies in recent years.

Smoke-free policies, which have been credited with reducing smoking rates and public exposure to secondhand smoke, are especially important at mental health facilities. People with mental health conditions smoke at higher rates than the general population—1 in 3 people with a mental health condition smoke compared to 1 in 5 people without a condition—due in part to years of exploitation by the tobacco industry.

According to a survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrationin 2010, 41.6 percent of facilities that provide mental health treatment reported that smoking was not permitted anywhere outside or inside any building. By 2015, that figure rose to 47.2 percent, reflecting a 13.5 percent increase in five years. The survey collects data from a range of facilities in the U.S. that provide mental health treatment services, including psychiatric hospitals, general hospitals and Veterans Administration medical centers, among others.

A partial list of psychiatric facilities in the U.S. that have adopted 100 percent smoke-free policies, compiled by the Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, counts 92 facilities that are 100 percent smoke-free indoors and outdoors. According to the list, five states—Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma, Vermont and Virginia—require psychiatric facilities be 100 percent smoke-free.

Smoke-free policies at mental health facilities represent a big shift from a few decades ago, when tobacco companies targeted psychiatric facilities with product promotions and giveaways, and some facilities even requested donations. The tobacco industry has also supported common misconceptions about tobacco and mental health by funding misleading research studies, including research that claimed cigarettes have a therapeutic effect on patients and positioned cigarettes as a way to self-medicate.

As part of its “Business or Exploitation?” campaigntruth® is organizing young people to show support for 100 percent smoke-free psychiatric facilities in the U.S. by signing a virtual thank-you card. While truth is raising awareness about the work that is still needed, the card recognizes these facilities for making “a pretty huge step in supporting the whole health of their patients” and giving mental health patients “a chance to get well and thrive without a deadly, addictive product by their side."

For more on how the tobacco industry exploits people with mental health conditions, read “tobacco is a social justice issue: mental health.”