The National Partnership on Behavioral Health and Tobacco Use

Reducing the burden from smoking among persons with mental illness and substance use disorders

Despite great strides in lowering the rate of tobacco use and its devastating health consequences, certain groups have not benefitted from this progress. Chief among them have been persons with mental illness and/or substance use disorders, collectively known as the behavioral health population. Until recently, health professionals, as well as relevant governmental agencies and advocacy groups, have not formally recognized this population as a disparity group or priority population. However, this vulnerable population group warrants special focus since their smoking prevalence is two to three times higher than the national average. Additionally, these individuals die ten to 25 years earlier, mainly from smoking-related disorders such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and emphysema.

Because this is such an important health issue, especially given the link between smoking and most types of cancer, The American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC) hosted a historic multi-sectorial summit at the ACS Atlanta headquarters on October 13-14, 2016. In attendance were senior representatives of health professional groups, federal governmental agencies, not-for-profit health agencies, and leading experts in behavioral health and tobacco control. The group established a goal to reduce smoking prevalence in the United States among persons with behavioral health issues from 34% in 2015 to 30% by the year 2020. This progress would prevent over a million premature deaths and would prevent many millions of persons from suffering from smoking-induced diseases. To reach this target, the participating organizations developed a set of strategies, including provider education, peer education, tobacco control and cessation policies, health systems change, and data/research. To provide a home for these continuing activities, the ACS and SCLC will establish a Round Table process to coordinate these activities and will consider adding additional partners.

If this effort is successful, it will greatly improve the health of the American public.

The 2016 National Partnership of Behavioral Health and Tobacco Use Summit

Participating Organizations:

  • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN)
  • American Cancer Society Center for Tobacco Control 
  • American Lung Association (ALA)
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  • NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness)
  • National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD)
  • National Council for Behavioral Health
  • North American Quitline Consortium (NAQC)
  • Optum 
  • Pfizer Inc 
  • SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)
  • Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (SCLC)
  • Tobacco Control Legal Consortium (TCLC)
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • United Health Group 
  • University of Wisconsin—Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention

For questions, please email ACS Center for Tobacco Control’s Director of Tobacco Control Initiatives, Bidisha Sinha, at