Objective: To conduct a pilot study to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of a multi-component smoking cessation intervention among prison inmates.
Methods: A prospective study conducted within a maximum-security prison located near Sydney, New South Wales, and housing around 330 men. Participants received a smoking cessation intervention with six-month follow-up to determine abstinence. The smoking cessation intervention consisted of two brief cognitive behavioural therapy sessions, nicotine replacement therapy, bupropion and self-help resources. Point prevalence and continuous abstinence at follow-up were verified with expired carbon monoxide measures.
Results: Thirty male inmates participated in the intervention. At six months, the biochemically validated point prevalence and continuous abstinence rates were 26% and 22% respectively. Reasons for relapse to smoking included: transfers to other prisons without notice, boredom, prolonged periods locked in cells, and stress associated with family or legal concerns. Those inmates who relapsed, or continued to smoke following the intervention, smoked less tobacco than at baseline and 95% stated they were willing to try to quit again using our intervention.
Conclusions: Prison inmates are able to quit or reduce tobacco consumption while in prison but any smoking cessation intervention in this setting needs to address prison-specific issues such as boredom, stress, transfers to other prisons, court appearances, and isolation from family and friends.
Implications: The prevalence of smoking within Australian prisons is alarmingly high. Further work into how to encourage prisoners to quit smoking is required.