Every year, tobacco use kills more than eight times as many people as alcohol and other drugs

combined.

That is a shocking number considering that tobacco use is rarely talked about in the same

way as decades past. For many, the dangers of smoking are old news. Yet, smoking remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control. The most recent Community Health Survey showed that nearly 1 in 4 (23%) of Crow Wing County residents use some form of commercial tobacco products. This is not only higher than state and national rates, but members of our community living with a mental illness are disproportionately affected by this statistic as well. Not only are people with a mental health diagnosis more likely to smoke, but they also tend to have a heavier dependence on tobacco and are less likely to attempt to quit.

The use of commercial tobacco products remains accepted in many areas where other

substances are not allowed. While many college and healthcare campuses are becoming tobacco free over the past decade, mental health hospitals and therapy settings have not adopted these policies at the same rate. By allowing and even encouraging tobacco use among individuals with a mental illness can increase stigma.

Myth: If someone is dealing with a mental illness or substance abuse, quitting tobacco is the least of their worries.

Facts: Individuals who receive tobacco treatment are 25% more likely to maintain sobriety.

Nicotine is a drug and can interact with other medications, making them less effective and

requiring higher doses.

With proper support and monitoring, quitting is possible and can be integrated into treatment.

Myth: Tobacco is not as harmful as other substances.

Facts: Smoking is the number one cause of death among people with a mental illness or drug addiction.

People living with a serious mental illness (bipolar disorder, severe depression, schizophrenia)

and a tobacco-related diagnosis die on average 25 years earlier than those without a serious

mental illness and tobacco related disease.

Myth: Smoking helps reduce stress.

Facts:

• Anxiety, depression, and stress have been shown to decrease among those who stop using tobacco products in several studies,

• Productivity and concentration improve as nicotine dependence is reduced,

• Positive coping habits include going for walks, deep breathing, drinking water, and talking to friends and family.

Kicking the habit can be an incredibly difficult and even intimidating experience for many. This is

because it is more than just a habit; it's an addiction. Fortunately, treatment can help. Participating in tobacco counseling services and using nicotine replacement therapy can greatly increase the chances of eliminating dependence.

Resources

QUITPLAN Services: www.quitplan.com

QUITPLAN Helpline: 1-888-354-PLAN

Free starter kits for Minnesota adults includes nicotine gum, lozenges, and patches.

Visit Essentia Health's website for more: https://bit.ly/2W4kBJl

Crow Wing Energized's Tobacco Coalition meets monthly at St. Joseph's Medical Center. Contact Jessica Williams at 218-828-7422 or by email at Jessica.williams@essentiahealth.org for more information.

*Tobacco in this article refers to the commercial tobacco products manufactured by tobacco companies, and not the sacred, traditional use of tobacco by Native Americans and other groups.