As overall smoking rates in the US decline to their lowest rates ever, the tobacco industry has taken new measures to find target groups — people who suffer from mental health issues and our soldiers in the military.

Truth Initiative, a tobacco-control non-profit group, estimates that people with mental health conditions or substance abuse disorders smoke 40 percent of cigarettes in the US. People who suffer from mental illness make up just 25 percent of the entire US population. Among those in the military, studies found that 38 percent begin smoking after enlisting.

The tobacco industry has made it easy for those with mental health conditions, and even the homeless, to get cigarettes by handing them out for free to psychiatric facilities, to mental health groups and homeless shelters and soup kitchens; many groups that also serve a number of people with mental conditions.

Why target these particular groups? The industry is catering to people who need stress relief based upon the challenges they are facing in life. It’s easy for those with mental conditions or in stressful military jobs to get caught up in the picture that tobacco advertising paints of smoking being relaxing and calming in the midst of personal or emotional problems.

The key to helping those with mental disorders kick the habit is through treatment. Studies show that those who are getting treatment for their mental health conditions have more success with treatment if they quit smoking. By quitting smoking, those in treatment are also less likely to take up smoking again in the future. Plus, the symptoms experienced by those recovering from mood disorders or depression decrease for those who quit smoking.

In America, the smoking rate is the lowest it has been since the 1950s. Currently, only 15 percent of adults smoke nationwide, and the teen smoking rate has dropped to 6 percent overall. According to the CDC, this is down from a rate of 20.9 percent of adults who smoked in 2005. The rate of those who smoke has dropped for many reasons, but mainly for the chance to live a longer, healthier life.

Cigarette smoking does extensive damage to your lungs – this is a proven fact. Smoking is the number one cause of preventable disease and death in the US, claiming more than 480,000 – or 1 out of every 5 lives – every year, according to the CDC’s findings.

For those who have smoked for years and want to quit, but think the damage to their bodies is already done, there is hope.

Quitting isn’t easy for everyone – the Cleveland Clinic finds that 75 percent of those who quit smoking, relapse – but the benefits are worth the effort. The Cleveland Clinic finds:

● Within 20 minutes of stopping, blood pressure and pulse decrease and the temperature of feet and hands increase.
● Within 8 hours, blood resumes its normal carbon monoxide levels and the oxygen level in the blood increases.
● The likelihood of having a heart attack starts to decrease within 24 hours of tossing the cigarettes.
● The longer the body goes without nicotine, the more it improves. Within 1-3 months there is an increase in circulation and tolerance for exercise.
● Energy levels increase and fatigue and shortness of breath decrease within the first 9 months.
● The chance of a heart attack decreases by 50 percent over that of a smoker after 1 year without a cigarette.
● After 5 years, the risk of having a stroke is decreased to the same level as someone who has never smoked,
● After 10 years, the chances of dying from lung cancer are cut in half and the risk of other cancers is decreased.

Preventive lung cancer screening is an important factor for former smokers to help catch any signs of cancer in the body.

Yearly lung cancer screening is recommended by The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, especially if there is a history of heavy smoking, for current smokers or those who have quit within the past 15 years, or those between 55 and 80 years old.

Regular cancer screening is the best method for detecting cancer early and treating it before it is too late. Screening is the favor that can be done for the body annually to ensure longer life and better health.