Smoking and its correlates in an Australian prisoner population

Drug Alcohol Rev. 2006 Jul;25(4):343-8. doi: 10.1080/09595230600741198.


Despite evidence of high rates of smoking among prisoners, there has been limited research that describes smoking patterns and risk factors associated with smoking in this group. This study describes inmate smokers and identifies factors associated with smoking in prison, using a survey comprising a cross-sectional random sample of inmates stratified by sex, age and Aboriginality. A total of 914 adult inmates (747 men, 167 women) were recruited from 29 New South Wales (Australia) correctional centres. Information on the prevalence of smoking, smoking history, smoking behaviours and other risk factors were collected. Of the participants, 79% were current smokers (78% men, 83% women). Younger inmates were more likely than older inmates to smoke (86% vs. 64%). Most individuals smoked between 11 and 20 cigarettes a day and a median of 50 grams per week. In the previous year, over half (52%) of current smokers had attempted to quit or reduce the amount they smoked. At the time of the survey, 58% of smokers had plans to quit; 21% within 3 months. Independent predictors of current smoking in the multivariate analysis were past use of cannabis and a history of illicit drug use. The prevalence of smoking in prison is extraordinarily high and exceeds that of the general community. Despite this, the majority of prisoners report plans to quit. Readily available smoking cessation advice, support and treatment are needed to assist those wanting to quit in this stressful environment. As the prevalence of smoking within the general community declines, assisting cessation in groups containing a disproportionate number of smokers will become increasingly important. Despite high levels of tobacco dependence, many prisoners intend to quit and health planners and custodial authorities need to encourage and support inmates who do attempt to quit.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Catchment Area, Health
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prisoners / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prisons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data
  • Smoking Prevention