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Health Soc Work. 2011 Feb;36(1):19-32.

The lived experiences of tobacco use, dependence, and cessation: insights and perspectives of people with mental illness.

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Older Adult Day Support Center/Community Integration Services, Family Service Agency of San Francisco, CA 94121, USA.


Even as the rate of smoking in the U.S. population overall has decreased dramatically during the last four decades, people with mental illness continue to use tobacco at alarmingly high rates. In the last two years, national initiatives have developed to address smoking within this population, yet there has not been an attempt to understand the perspectives of people with mental illness themselves regarding the role tobacco plays in their lives. This grounded theory study, based on focus group interviews with 26 individuals with various smoking statuses receiving outpatient mental health services, attempted to develop a theory to understand this high prevalence from the perspectives of people with mental illness. The article explores the experiences ofpeople with mental illness related to never smoking, smoking, and quitting; the role of tobacco use for people with mental illness; the other forces that promote or discourage tobacco use; and the tensions and complexities in understanding the "problem" of tobacco use in this population. It concludes by highlighting directions for future research, policy considerations, and the important role social workers can play in addressing this significant cause of health disparities.

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