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New Project to Reduce Tobacco Use Among People with Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions

New York, NY (January 10, 2024)—The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has awarded CAI funding to administer the National Center of Excellence for Tobacco-Free Recovery through September of 2028. This initiative aims to reduce commercial tobacco use among people with mental health and substance use conditions.

People with behavioral health conditions smoke at higher rates than their peers, consuming an estimated 40 percent of all cigarettes produced in the country. The reasons for this disproportionate use of tobacco products include long-held myths that people with mental illness are not interested in quitting, can’t quit, or benefit from smoking because it alleviates their symptoms. Social determinants of health—such as poverty, lack of access to health care, and racism—and predatory marketing practices by the tobacco industry have also contributed to tobacco-related health disparities and a lack of effective treatment options.

In the next five years, CAI—with guidance from a national planning committee and key community partners—will:

  • Bring together individuals with behavioral health conditions who are affected by commercial tobacco use and their families—along with behavioral health professionals, subject matter experts, and other stakeholders—to address the myths, influence social norms around smoking, and create policy and systems changes to reduce commercial tobacco use among this population.
  • Provide training, technical assistance, and resources to behavioral health agencies, state health departments, and others across the country to foster implementation of evidence-based interventions and promote changes in policies, practices, and systems.
  • Convene Cross-State Leadership Academies for Tobacco-Free Recovery to develop and implement state action plans related to reducing the rates of tobacco use for people with behavioral health conditions and ensure that the messaging received by tobacco users is consistent across their care teams, families, and social supports.

“Contrary to long-held myths, reducing commercial tobacco use among people with mental health and substance use conditions is achievable and improves behavioral health outcomes,” said David Davis, project director. “We are committed to engaging organizations and the people they serve in changing policies, systems, and social norms that will reduce smoking rates and save lives.”

This national initiative is the most recent addition to CAI’s portfolio of projects that work to change tobacco-related policies and behaviors within municipalities, neighborhoods, schools, and businesses through population- and community-level strategies. Read more about CAI’s work to reduce tobacco-use.

If you have questions about the work of the National Center of Excellence for Tobacco-Free Recovery or would like to receive technical assistance or participate in upcoming activities, contact us: or 929-581-0861.


This project is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by SAMHSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government.