Betty Williams says giving up crack cocaine was easier than her ongoing struggle to quit cigarettes. “A cigarette is a friend,” said Williams, who lives with schizophrenia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. People with mental illness account for 44% of the cigarette purchases in the United States, and they are less likely to quit than other smokers. High smoking rates among people with mental illness contribute to poorer physical health and shorter lifespans, generally 13 to 30 years shorter than the population as a whole. About 37% of men and 30% of women with mental illness smoke.
People who are uninsured or on Medicaid are more than twice as likely to smoke tobacco compared to those covered by other insurance, according to a national study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About 28 percent of uninsured adults and 29 percent of adults on Medicaid smoke nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), compared with just 13 percent of adults on private insurance plans and 12.5 percent on Medicare. The CDC, which examined data from the 2014 National Health Interview Survey, published the findings in November. The CDC found that cigarette-smoking rates were higher among people who live below the poverty level (26.3 percent) and people with a GED certificate (40 percent). Overall, the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults declined from 20.9 percent to 16.8 percent from 2005 to 2014, according to the CDC.
Despite laws in many states that protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke, exposure remains especially high for children ages 3 to 11, African-Americans, and those who live in poverty or rental housing, according to a recent report. Jessica Hollenbach, the director of asthma programs at the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, agreed with the report, done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and said tobacco is a negative toxin that can make other illnesses worse. Hollenbach studies the relationship between secondhand smoke exposure and asthma in children. She said tobacco is an asthma trigger, and children with asthma often have higher exposure to second-hand smoke. In Connecticut, 13.9 percent of public school students have asthma, according to a state Department of Public Health report released last year.
By analyzing dynamic brain scans, Yale researchers have pinpointed a different brain response between male and female smokers, a finding that could lead to breakthroughs in developing gender-specific treatments to help smokers quit. The study, published today in The Journal of Neuroscience, measured in a new way how and where nicotine affects pleasure receptors in the brain, according to Evan Morris, senior author of the study and an associate professor of diagnostic radiology, biomedical engineering and psychiatry at Yale University. Previous research has shown smoking cigarettes affects men’s and women’s brains differently, but this study marks the first time that PET (positron emission tomography) scans were used to create “movies” of how smoking affects dopamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers feelings of pleasure in the brain, Morris, the Co-Director of Imaging Section, Yale PET Center, said. Movies were made of 16 addicted smokers’ brains, eight men and eight women. Each smoked their cigarette of choice while undergoing a PET scan that lasted about 90 minutes.
People nationally are smoking fewer cigarettes, but consumption of cheaper forms of tobacco is rising, especially among youth and young adults, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control.