News Release - August 4, 2015

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Jennifer Forbes                                                                                                  
Communications & Public Affairs




Rutgers Study Finds Smoking Prevalence Has Not Decreased for Individuals with Poor Mental Health

Experts Advocate for Stronger Tobacco Cessation Programs within Behavioral Health Programs


New Brunswick, NJ – Despite a significant decline in tobacco use by adults, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), smoking rates in individuals with poor mental health remained the same for a decade, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  In addition, during the 10-year period examined by researchers at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, smoking prevalence was greater in individuals with behavioral health conditions, compared to persons with better mental health.

 “Our research found that while smoking rates have been going down in New Jersey adults without mental health problems, they have remained steady for those with mental health problems,” said Marc L. Steinberg, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and lead author of the study.  “This suggests that tobacco control strategies are not reaching those with poor mental health, or, if they are, their messages are not translating into successful cessation.”

Dr. Steinberg and his colleagues also examined quit attempts by current smokers, finding that there was no significant difference in the attempt to quit in regard to mental health. 

“Evidence shows that there has been a significant decrease in smoking in adults, and our data indicates that people with mental illness attempt to quit smoking at the same rate as those without mental illness, yet they are not as successful,” said Steinberg. “Tobacco control has been relatively successful in helping some groups quit smoking, but the remaining smokers may be the ones who are the hardest to treat. We need to address the health disparities of the remaining smokers, such as those with lower socioeconomic status and mental health problems. Individuals with mental illness represent approximately one third of the adult smokers in the U.S. and we need to develop alternative tobacco control strategies, including targeted treatments for this vulnerable population.”

New Jersey data examined in the study was obtained from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and was provided by the New Jersey Department of Health. The data was collected from telephone surveys independently conducted in all 50 states that compiled chronic health information from adults aged 18 and older and then pooled by the CDC.

The study was supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health (1R34DA030652) and the New Jersey Department of Health, Division of Family Health Services. Jill M. Williams, MD, professor of psychiatry at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Yunqing Li, Ph.D., Office of Olmstead, Compliance, Planning & Evaluation, New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services contributed to the study. Consultation regarding statistical analyses was provided by the New Jersey Department of Health.


About Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

As one of the nation's leading comprehensive medical schools, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in education, research, health care delivery, and the promotion of community health. Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, the medical school's principal affiliate, comprise one of the nation's premier academic medical centers. In addition, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School has 34 other hospital affiliates and ambulatory care sites throughout the region.

Part of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School encompasses 20 basic science and clinical departments, hosts centers and institutes including The Cardiovascular Institute, the Child Health Institute of New Jersey, the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine, the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, and the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey. The medical school maintains educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels on its campuses in New Brunswick and Piscataway and provides continuing education courses for health care professionals and community education programs. To learn more about Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, visit Find us online at and