Governor Newsom Signs Bill to Integrate Tobacco Treatment in Substance Use Disorder Programs

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO – Governor Newsom has signed AB 541, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), which will help patients in drug treatment programs quit smoking.

In 2019, Dr. Chwen-Yuen Angie Chen from Stanford School of Medicine attended a community coffee hosted by Assemblymember Berman and voiced concerns about disproportionately high smoking rates among Californians in drug treatment programs.

“I was surprised to learn that people with substance use disorders are more likely to die from tobacco-related illness than from the addiction that brings them to treatment in the first place,” said Assemblymember Berman. “When patients enter drug treatment, they should be provided with the tools to quit all substances, not become addicted to a new one.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), individuals with behavioral or substance use disorders are more than twice as likely to smoke cigarettes as those without such disorders. Research shows that quitting tobacco supports behavioral health treatment, could make relapse less likely, and has immediate physical health benefits. The CDC recommends the integration of tobacco treatment into behavioral healthcare, but California’s drug treatment programs rank among the lowest in the United States as it relates to screening for tobacco and providing a pathway for patients to quit smoking.

“We are grateful to Assemblymember Berman for crafting a bill that provides much needed screening and treatment for a substance use disorder that causes more health consequences than any other substance: tobacco smoking,” said Dr. Chwen-Yuen Angie Chen, on behalf of California Society of Addiction Medicine. “Thank you also to the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals who contributed significantly to this work.  We applaud the effort behind passing AB 541 and Governor Newsom’s signature.”

AB 541 requires all substance use disorder programs in California to assess patients for tobacco use, inform them about how continued smoking could affect their recovery, and offer or refer them to treatment to quit smoking.

“We are extremely excited that Governor Newsom has recognized the importance of smoking cessation by signing AB 541,” said Pete Nielsen, President and CEO of the California Consortium of Addiction Programs and Professionals.

AB 541 will improve recovery outcomes and reduce tobacco-related illness among a vulnerable population in California.

Contact: Kaitlin Curry, (916) 319-2024