Introduction: Most correctional facilities have implemented tobacco restrictions in an effort to reduce costs and improve prisoner health, but little has been done to evaluate the impact of these policy changes. Patterns of tobacco use among prisoners were explored to determine the impact of incarceration in a facility with an indoor smoking ban on tobacco use behaviors.
Methods: Recently incarcerated male inmates (n = 200) were surveyed about their tobacco use prior to and during incarceration.
Results: Tobacco use was prevalent prior to arrest (77.5%) and increased during incarceration (81.0%). Though the number of cigarette smokers increased during imprisonment, per-capita cigarette consumption declined by 7.1 cigarettes/day (p < .001). Despite widespread tobacco use, most participants recognized that smoking is a cause of lung cancer (96.0%) and heart disease (75.4%) and that it can be addicting (97.5%). Most tobacco users (70.0%) reported a desire to quit, with 63.0% saying they intended to try quitting in the next year.
Conclusions: Indoor smoking bans do not promote cessation in prisons but may reduce the amount of tobacco consumed. Though smoking is commonplace in prisons, most prisoners recognize the risks involved and wish to quit. This creates an ideal setting for intervention. Evidence-based cessation assistance should be made freely available to all incarcerated smokers.