Background: In the last decade Poland has successfully carried out effective anti-tobacco campaigns and introduced tobacco control legislation. This comprehensive strategy has focused on the general population and has led to a considerable decrease in tobacco consumption. Prisoners constitute a relatively small part of the entire Polish population and smoking habits in this group have been given little attention. The aim of the study was to assess the prevalence of cigarette smoking in Polish male prisoners, factors determining smoking in this group, prisoners' attitudes towards smoking cessation, and to evaluate prisoners' perception of different anti-tobacco measures.
Methods: An anonymous questionnaire including personal, demographic and smoking data was distributed among 944 male inmates. Of these, 907 men aged between 17 and 62 years (mean 32.3 years) met the inclusion criteria of the study. For the comparison of proportions, a chi-square test was used with continuity correction whenever appropriate.
Results: In the entire group, 81% of the subjects were smokers, 12% - ex-smokers, and 7% - never smokers. Current smokers had significantly lower education level than non-smokers (p < 0.0001) and ever-smokers more frequently abused other psychoactive substances than never smokers (p < 0.0001). Stress was reported as an important factor in prompting smoking (77%). Forty-nine percent of daily smokers were aware of the adverse health consequences of smoking. The majority of smokers (75%) had attempted to quit smoking in the past. Forty percent of smoking prisoners considered an award for abstaining from cigarettes as the best means to limit the prevalence of smoking in prisons.
Conclusion: The prevalence of cigarette smoking among Polish prisoners is high. However, a majority of smokers attempt to quit, and they should be encouraged and supported. Efforts to reduce cigarette smoking in prisons need to take into consideration the specific factors influencing smoking habits in prisons.