Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement Heads To Albany to Underscore Vulnerable New Yorkers’ Need for Tobacco Control

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Adults with Mental Illness Smoke a Third of All Cigarettes [i]

New York, NY – Tobacco control programs are urgently needed to help New Yorkers with serious mental illness. That is the message representatives from The Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement (COE for HSI) for a Tobacco-Free New York will take to the New York State Capitol tomorrow as they educate state lawmakers about established comprehensive tobacco control programs, many funded by the State, that currently are in place to reduce the burden caused by tobacco and ultimately save lives and state tax dollars.

New York State legislators are invited to visit Meeting Room 1 of the Empire State Plaza Concourse from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., where representatives of Advancing Tobacco-Free Communities (Community Engagement and Reality Check) and Health Systems for a Tobacco-Free New York will be joined by volunteer youth leaders to answer questions and offer resources about effective tobacco prevention programs being delivered across the state.

The COE for HSI, a program of CAI funded through the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control, will participate in the day's activities by meeting with local elected leaders to explain the importance of supporting large-scale health system improvements in settings serving New Yorkers suffering from mental illness, specifically standardized screening for tobacco use and provision of evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment to all interested patients.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • 31 percent of all cigarettes are smoked by adults with mental illness
  • 40 percent of men and 34 percent of women with mental illness smoke
  • 48 percent of people with mental illness who live below the poverty level smoke.[i]

"Adults with mental illness are less likely to quit, and are more likely to suffer from tobacco-related diseases or die early from tobacco use. In fact, individuals with serious mental illness and substance abuse die a startling twenty-five years earlier than those without mental illness," said Elizabeth Jones, Director of the Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement. "The NYS Tobacco Control Program has made significant progress in supporting this vulnerable group, but there is still so much work to do to help those dealing with mental illness access tobacco dependence treatment and resources to help them quit."

Research indicates that, despite common misperceptions, smokers with mental illness are no less motivated or capable of quitting smoking than the general population.[ii] In New York State, more than 28,200 lives are lost due to tobacco use annually.[iii]

The New York State Tobacco Control Program uses a policy-driven, population-based approach designed to prevent youth from smoking and motivate adult smokers to quit. The efforts are leading the way toward a tobacco-free society.

About CAI: CAI is a global nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and well-being of underserved populations worldwide. For 35 years, CAI has provided customized capacity building services to health and human service organizations in over 23 countries and in all 50 states. Offering over 1,500 training programs annually, CAI's passionate staff works to fulfill its mission: to use the transformative power of education and research to foster a more aware, healthy, compassionate and equitable world. For more information about CAI, visit our website:

About the Center of Excellence for Health System Improvement: With funding from the New York State Department of Health Bureau of Tobacco Control, CAI serves as the Center of Excellence for Health Systems Improvement (COE for HSI) for a Tobacco-Free NY. The COE for HSI promotes large-scale systems and policy changes to support the universal provision of evidence-based tobacco dependence treatment services. The COE for HSI aims to support 10 contractors throughout New York State working regionally with health care systems and organizations that serve those populations for which smoking prevalence rates have not decreased in recent years - adults with low income, less than a high school diploma, and/or poor mental health. Focused on providing capacity building assistance services around topics like how to engage and obtain buy-in from leadership to implement the kinds of systems-level changes that will result in identification of and intervention with every tobacco user who seeks care, the COE for HSI also will offer materials and resources to support contractors in their regional work.



[i] Smoking among Adults With Mental Illness, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),

[ii] Weir K. Smoking and mental illness. American Psychological Association, 2013; 44(6):36.

[iii] Best Practices for Comprehensive Tobacco Control Programs, 2014, Section C: Recommended Funding Levels, by State New York, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,