Smoking is significantly more common amongst those with mental illness. At Sheppard Pratt, over 75 percent of patients on our co-occurring disorders unit, and 45 percent of all other adult inpatients, are smokers. Compared with 13 percent of the U.S. adult population, smoking is a staggering problem among those who have mental illnesses. The negative health effects of smoking can be truly dangerous — both to smokers and their loved ones. Smoking is the main preventable reason that causes people with mental illness to die about 15-25 years before their peers. Further, of the 480,000 people who die each year from smoking-related illness, half have a mental illness.

Why Quit Smoking?

There are many health benefits to quitting smoking, including:

  • Less depression, anxiety, and better overall wellbeing. People who are in substance use recovery have a lower risk of relapse.
  • A lowered risk of developing smoking-related health conditions, including many types of cancer, heart disease and heart attacks, and stroke
  • Improving your sense of smell and your sense of taste
  • A reduction in breathing-related issues, including wheezing, shortness of breath, and coughing
  • Improved vision at night – smoking damages your eyes
  • Clearer skin – when you quit smoking, blemishes usually clear up and you will see less premature aging and wrinkles
  • Stronger muscles and bones

How to Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking is not easy. But, there are lots of tools available to help you kick the habit.

  • First, prepare to quit:
    • Figure out your ‘why.’ It is helpful to have an important reason that will keep you motivated.
    • Figure out how to tackle any cravings you have, and come up with plans for managing them. For example, if you’re used to smoking after a meal, that is a good time to get the dishes done, or sit with a cup of tea instead.
    • Nicotine replacement therapies, like the patch, gum, or lozenge, are an effective way to tackle nicotine withdrawal.
    • Tell your loved ones that you are going to quit, and let them be a part of your plan to quit smoking.
    • Look into free support options to help. We recommend the Maryland Quit Line. Quitting is difficult, and it's not necessary to do it on your own.
  • Pick your ‘quit day.’ The first day without tobacco can be hard, but make sure to reference your quit plan and address your cravings in a healthy way on quit day. A practice quit day is also a great option!
  • Quit! Make sure to use your plan and your supports. 
  • If you relapse, try to focus on what you’ve learned, and try again. 

Support for Patients Who Smoke in an Inpatient Setting

When a patient who smokes is admitted to the hospital, we aim to prevent nicotine cravings and help them to consider smoking cessation. 

  • All patients are screened for tobacco and nicotine use.
  • Patients who smoke are offered nicotine replacement options, like the patch, gum, and/or lozenge.
  • Patients who smoke are offered individualized smoking cessation counseling for education, encouraging the idea of quitting, and developing a quit plan when they are ready.
  • Smoking cessation groups are offered on several of our units. Topics cover coping with mental illness without cigarettes, costs and benefits of smoking, and dealing with craving and triggers.
  • At discharge, patients who smoke are offered prescriptions for nicotine replacement therapy and a referral to a quit line (at Sheppard Pratt, we refer patients to the Maryland Quit Line), which can help them maintain the work they have done in the hospital to stay away from cigarettes.

Here at Sheppard Pratt, our smoking cessation program reaches most adult smokers in our hospitals. In fiscal year 2019, approximately 75 percent of inpatient and day hospital smokers received smoking cessation counseling. In the first four years of our smoking cessation program, more than 7,000 patients have received smoking cessation treatment.