Maryland's Tobacco Resource Center - Linking Professionals to Best Practices

Smoking, Once used to Reward, Faces a Ban in Mental Hospitals

February
2013

Cigarette smoking has often been used as a form of incentive/reward for mentally ill patients; in particular, it is used to get patients to adhere to medications and/or hospital rules and regulations. However, reports from the CDC show that smoking rates are higher in mentally ill populations (70%) compared to those individuals without any mental illness. Furthermore, chemicals found in smoking may alter the metabolism of medications and some chemicals can even make the treatment medications less effective. Although more and more treatment facilities are trying to implement a smoking ban, some still allow smoking outside their grounds.  Further barriers that impede implementation of smoking bans in hospitals and treatment facilities are the fear that clients may dropout and/or the smoking ban may impose too great an interference with treatment.  However, results from a survey conducted by SAMHSA showed that smokers with mental illness were willing to quit given the necessary support and resources.