Always a Priority: Helping Smokers with Mental Health Conditions Quit, co-hosted by the CDC's Tips From Former Smokers campaign


90 Minutes

Webinar Speakers

Jill M. Williams, MD

Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Jill M. Williams, MD, is Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Director of the Division of Addiction Psychiatry at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ)-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick. She also holds faculty appointments with the UMDNJ-School of Public Health Tobacco Dependence Program and the Cancer Institute of New Jersey. She received her medical degree from UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in Piscataway and completed her residency training at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Dr. Williams also completed a fellowship in Addiction Psychiatry at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

A Diplomate in Psychiatry, Dr. Williams is board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology with Added Qualifications in Addiction Psychiatry. She is a member of the Association for the Treatment of Tobacco Use and Dependence, the American Psychiatric Association, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, and the American Association of Community Psychiatrists. She was awarded the Silver Award for the CHOICES (Consumers Helping Others Improve their Condition by Ending Smoking) Program by the American Psychiatric Association Institute of Psychiatric Services in 2009. Dr Williams is the CME Course Director for a two-day training conference for Psychiatrists, Advanced Practice Nurses, and other Mental Health Professionals on Tobacco Dependence Treatment.

Dr. Williams is currently Principal Investigator of a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of nicotine nasal spray as a smoking cessation aid in schizophrenia. Her publications have appeared in numerous journals including Nicotine and Tobacco Research, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment.

Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH

Director, of the Office on Smoking and Health, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Corinne Graffunder, DrPH, MPH, is Director of the Office on Smoking and Health within the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. She is responsible for providing broad leadership and direction for all scientific, policy, and programmatic issues related to tobacco control and prevention.

Prior to her current position she served as the Deputy Associate Director for Policy in CDC’s Office of the Director, working to strengthen collaboration between public health, health care, and other sectors to advance CDC’s population health priorities. She has more than 30 years of experience with national, state, and local prevention efforts and worked with the US Surgeon General and National Prevention Council, leading the development of the first ever National Prevention Strategy: America’s Plan for Better Health and Wellness.

Since joining CDC in 1987, she has held leadership positions in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and in the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, working on a range of health issues including tobacco control, cancer prevention and control, and violence prevention. She received her doctorate from the University of North Carolina and her Masters of Public Health and Bachelors of Science from the University of South Carolina.


Participant in the 2016 Tips From Former Smokers campaign

A native of Texas, Rebecca, age 57, started smoking cigarettes as a teenager. She lived among a family of heavy
smokers, which influenced her to start smoking. “I grew up in an environment where everyone around me smoked.
As a 16-year-old trying to find my way, I just picked it up,” she said.

Like many former smokers, Rebecca’s journey to quitting was a bumpy one. She quit smoking for 7 months in 2002
but went back to smoking while struggling through a divorce. She became depressed and turned to cigarettes again,
thinking that they might help her cope with her feelings. Instead, she felt worse. “I went back to this self-defeating
addiction. That was just a vicious, vicious cycle,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca’s struggle with depression wasn’t the only reason she wanted to quit smoking. Her father was a heavy
smoker and died after having a serious heart attack. “I watched a lot of my family members who were smokers
deteriorate; literally, their bodies would deteriorate as they grew older. So when it started happening to me, I was hit
in the face with reality.” Rebecca knew her health was in jeopardy when she developed severe gum disease, a risk
for smokers. She needed major dental work—including bone grafts and eventually dental implants—to restore her
missing teeth.

Rebecca decided to stop smoking when her grandson was born. She wanted to be a good role model and never
smoke around him. So, she stopped smoking cigarettes and committed herself to a healthier lifestyle, including
getting care for her depression. “I finally realized I had to look to myself for my own happiness and health. I had to
quit,” she said.

Since quitting smoking, Rebecca has a new outlook on life. She began running while taking her grandson along for a
ride in his stroller. This helped her to manage stress and depression and to stay smokefree. Six months after starting
to run, Rebecca ran her first 5K. “I actually placed third place in my age group. That gave me the confidence to keep
going,” she said.

As Rebecca started enjoying life as a nonsmoker, she felt encouraged by the positive changes and progress she’s
made. She discovered that she doesn’t need cigarettes to cope with her feelings, even when life may get her down.
“Running became the way I felt better. When I have a bad day or feel a little stressed out, I just go for a run and I’m
back on track.”

Rebecca was so excited about her fresh start that she completed a personal training certification course, which
helped her learn even more about taking good care of her health. “I learned that I have the power to change. It is all
within me,” said Rebecca.

As for cigarettes, Rebecca encourages other people to quit smoking. “It’s about taking control of your life and where
you want to be in your life.”

Webinar Objectives
  • Review epidemiology of tobacco use among individuals with a mental illness or addiction in order to raise awareness

  • Discuss the variety of consequences experienced by a tobacco user in addition to medical or health consequences and revise how these impact recovery from a mental illness or addiction

  • Interpret personal narrative recovery stories as a way to disseminate information to an at risk community and increase awareness and understanding in a peer to peer way

Additional Resources