My family is no stranger to tobacco and cancer. Both my father and grandfather died of lung cancer. My boys grew up in a smoke-filled home. And it took me more than 10 years to successfully quit. My family has battled this addiction, and the devastating health repercussions, for decades. This is a struggle that we share with millions of other Americans, and it is no different than the struggle faced by people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders.
People with mental illnesses and addictions are disproportionately burdened by tobacco use and cancer. These individuals smoke half of all cigarettes in the US, yet are only half as likely as other smokers to quit. Not only is this population smoking more, they are also more likely to die from cancer, both tobacco-related and non. We know that those with a mental illness may be 2.6 times more likely to develop cancer due to late stage diagnosis and inadequate treatment and screenings. We truly have a public health crisis on our hands.
The National Council, in collaboration with the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center, the Behavioral Health and Wellness Program, and Centerstone Research Institute, has launched a program to address these very issues. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Office on Smoking and Health and the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, we established the National Behavioral Health Network for Tobacco and Cancer Control. The National Council joins six other organizations in a Consortium of National Networks to impact populations facing disparities related to tobacco use and cancer rates:
- Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy and Leadership — Asian American/Pacific Islander
- Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America — Rural/frontier
- Inter-Tribal Council of Michigan — American Indian/Alaska Native
- National African American Tobacco Prevention Network — African American
- National Alliance for Hispanic Health — Hispanic/Latino
- Network for LGBT Health Equity at Centerlink — LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender)
Together, the Consortium of National Networks provides cutting edge information, training opportunities, and resources to improve the health outcomes of these populations. Over the coming year, the National Behavioral Health Network will work with community mental health and substance use treatment organizations, public health agencies, and other stakeholders to further enhance efforts to prevent and reduce tobacco use and cancer among adults with mental illness and substance use disorders.
I encourage you to join us in this exciting effort.
- Become a National Behavioral Health Network Participant and register as a participant to receive cutting-edge information and resources through our bi-monthly Network Insider.
- Visit our webpage to learn more about cancer and tobacco use among this population
Do you have thoughts on how best to prevent and reduce tobacco usage and cancer rates? Please send your comments to Shelina Foderingham, Director of Practice Improvement.