A graphic with the words Great American Smokeout 2023 on it with the NCHPAD logo below it and an image of a no smoking simple.

The Great American Smokeout: Empowering People with Disabilities

The Great American Smokeout, held on the third Thursday of November every year, encourages smokers across the nation to commit to quitting smoking for at least one day, in the hopes that it will lead to a smoke-free future.

While the focus of this event is on the broader population, it’s important to know how this initiative can be especially impactful for people with disabilities.

Smoking poses unique challenges and risks to individuals with disabilities, making the event a prime opportunity for change, empowerment and improved health outcomes.

Tobacco Prevalence in People with Disabilities

People with disabilities face many barriers to health and wellness access. As a result, people with disabilities often are more susceptible to preventable health problems that decrease their overall health and quality of life. Contributing factors include limited access to health programs and services that meet their needs.

According to the CDC, current cigarette smoking is significantly higher among adults with a disability (19%) compared to adults without a disability (11%). The percentage of adults with disabilities using E-cigarettes is also higher (8%) compared to adults without disabilities (3.9%). Adolescents with disabilities are also consistently more likely to smoke cigarettes compared with their nondisabled peers (Senders et al., 2020) .                           

Access to tobacco prevention and cessation programs and public information campaigns can significantly improve the health and wellness of people, including those with disabilities. It’s especially important to provide inclusive programs aimed to provide equal access to people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized. This includes those having physical or intellectual disabilities or belonging to other minority groups.

Strategies for Tobacco Avoidance and Cessation

Quitting smoking is important for many reasons. It improves quality of life, reduces the risk of many smoking-related diseases and can add up to 10 years to life expectancy.

Public health organizations promoting health and wellness must prioritize access to resources, education and programs that will lead people with disabilities to engage in positive healthy behaviors related to a smoke-free life. The graphic below highlights strategies for avoiding – and quitting – tobacco.

An infographic with the NCHPAD logo, Special Olympics Health logo, and CDC logo at the top with the following text below it: Stay Smoke-Free and Take Control of Your Health Today Choose Health, Avoid Tobacco and secondhand smoke. Why Tobacco avoidance is important. Staying tobacco free helps you breathe better. Tobacco use affects your lungs, heart, bones, teeth, and causes cancer. Tobacco use is an expensive habit – Save money and use it on things that help you live healthy. Breathing in secondhand smoke is also harmful to your health. What is Secondhand Smoke? Smoke from a cigarette or tobacco product Smoke breathed out by a smoker. Avoid Tobacco in All Forms Avoid cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vaping, chew, and all tobacco products. Almost 30% of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities are affected by secondhand smoke. How to avoid secondhand smoke? Decide to have a smoke free home and car. Choose to go to places that are smoke-free or leave the room. Say “I want to stay healthy and fresh air helps me stay strong” so you can stop smoking or go elsewhere. Call a friend and join them to do something outside. Support friends and family as they quit smoking. Choose Health, Not Tobacco Here are things I can choose to do: If I do not use tobacco, I choose not to start. If I smoke, I will ask to my doctor to help me quit. If I chew tobacco, I will ask my doctor to help me quit. If I smoke or chew tobacco, I will ask my friends and family to support me to quit. If you avoid tobacco, you can… Live a long and healthy life. Stay active with a positive mind.