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Special Olympics Addresses the Issue of Tobacco Use and its Impact on People with Disabilities on The GREAT AMERICAN SMOKEOUT

Special Olympics aims to provide inclusive strategies with National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) that address challenges faced by individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to live smokefree and choose health.

The CDC has found that individuals with disabilities are more likely to smoke cigarettes and use e-cigarettes than those without disabilities1,2. Among adults, the percentage of current cigarette smokers is significantly higher for those with disabilities (27.8%) compared to those without disabilities (13.4%)1. Similarly, the percentage of adults with disabilities using e-cigarettes is also higher (8%) compared to those without disabilities (3.9%)1. This trend is consistent among adolescents with disabilities as well, who are more likely to smoke cigarettes than their peers without disabilities1. These findings highlight the need for targeted interventions and support for individuals with disabilities to reduce their tobacco use. Special Olympics and our partners at NCHPAD recognize the importance of avoiding tobacco and the impact for people with disabilities. Smoking presents unique challenges and risks to those with disabilities, making The Great American Smokeout a chance for change, empowerment and better health outcomes.

Our joint commitment is to support smoking cessation as well as avoidance efforts in public health systems and promote the inclusion of people with disabilities. Physical activity, sports participation and being aware have been shown to be effective in reducing tobacco cravings. Therefore, it is important to have access to inclusive health and wellness programs. Through our Healthy Athlete Screening and NCHPAD Connect, we are addressing the need for disability-related smoking cessation, avoidance education and support through their respective health and wellness programs.

Our goal is to present an opportunity to address the pressing health issue of smoking within the IDD community. Individuals should be encouraged to take the first steps towards quitting through promoting awareness of the harmful effects of smoking on people with IDD. Accessible information and resources, such as the Healthy Athletes Program, can make a significant difference in helping people with IDD quit smoking. Taking steps such as the creation of smoke-free environments provide a supportive network for individuals who want to quit. Additionally, it is important to encourage disability advocacy organizations to support smoking cessation efforts and advocate for policies that protect the rights of individuals with IDD.

By working together, we can create a smoke-free, healthier and more inclusive future for all individuals, regardless of their abilities.


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, November 19). Cigarette Smoking Among Adults with Disabilities. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Corenlius, M. E., Loretan, C. G., Jamal, A., Davis Lynn, B., Mayer, M., Alcantara, I. C., & Neff, L. (2023, May 4). Tobacco Product Use Among Adults – United States, 2021. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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