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Public Health - Seattle & King County

Tobacco Prevention Program Newsletter, Summer 2011
By Michael Leon-Guerrero

Watch video of peer support specialists in tobacco education and cessation training.
Peer support specialists receive tobacco education and cessation training

A comfortable room full of Peer Support Specialists, tobacco control experts, good food and positive energy provided fodder for a growing movement: addressing tobacco at mental health and substance use disorder agencies at the policy and treatment level.

Peer Support Specialists have been identified by leading anti-tobacco advocates and treatment agencies as one of the most effective types of treatment for consumers. These folks are dedicated and invested in their community and in a unique position to help others find hope and recovery.

Training components included general tobacco use and rate information, a Quitline overview, motivational interviewing, Carbon monoxide monitor training and a review of support group curriculums. Tobacco use rates among mental health and substance using consumers are two to four times higher than the general population, and often higher with specific diagnoses such as schizophrenia. Use rate issues coupled with a lack of quit resources, tobacco industry marketing, and environments that often promote tobacco use easily framed this as a social justice issue and provided motivation and engagement for the Peer Support Specialists. Several of the Peer Support Specialists at the training identified themselves as tobacco users and a few shared a strong desire to quit by the end of the training.

The synergy of the training was by far the highlight of the day. Inspired and motivated, several participants shared their thoughts from the day on camera while another participant announced that she was quitting. These stories and the video will be featured on the Communities Putting Prevention to Work networking site,

Mental health and substance use disorder agencies are on a parallel track working on tobacco policy which will ultimately result in 100% tobacco free sites. With the tobacco use rates being so high at these sites, Peer Support Specialists trained in tobacco cessation will be able to step in and offer support groups, education and information. The training was sponsored by the King County Mental Health, Chemical Abuse & Dependency Services Division, and Communities Putting Prevention to Work.

For more information about this project, contact Sherry McCabe at


Karen Lasser, MD; J. Wesley Boyd, MD, PhD; Steffie Woolhandler, MD, MPH; David U. Himmelstein, MD; Danny McCormick, MD, MPH; David H. Bor, MD. Smoking and mental illness: a population-based prevalence study. JAMA. 2000;284:2606-2610