CHOICES was created to address the serious healthcare problem of smoking among individuals with mental illness. Seventy percent of mental health consumers are current smokers, rates that are 2-4 times greater than the general population. In addition, smokers with mental illness have an increased risk for tobacco-caused illnesses and reduced access to tobacco treatments. Despite these figures, many mental health treatment facilities still do not offer any services to help consumers quit smoking.
Dr. Jill Williams, Director of Mental Health Tobacco Treatment Services, at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School-Division of Addiction Psychiatry (Rutgers-RWJMS), was frustrated by the lack of progress to educate mental health consumers about the importance of addressing smoking. She believed that given the correct information and choices, consumers will take steps to lead healthier lives. Research has shown that people listen to their peers and look to them for support.