Tobacco smoking, associated risk behaviours, and experience with quitting: a qualitative study with homeless smokers addicted to drugs and alcohol

BMC Public Health. 2013 Oct 10:13:951. doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-13-951.


Background: The prevalence of tobacco smoking among homeless people can reach more than 90%, with related morbidity and mortality being high. However, research in this area is scarce. This study aims to explore smoking and quitting related behaviours, experiences and knowledge in homeless smokers in the context of other substance abuse.

Methods: Face-to-face interviews were conducted with homeless smokers accessing a harm reduction service in Nottingham, UK. Data on smoking history, nicotine dependence, motivation and confidence to quit were collected using structured instruments; a semi-structured interview guide was used to elicit responses to predefined subject areas, and to encourage the emergence of unprecedented themes. Data were analysed using framework analysis and descriptive statistics.

Results: Participants were generally highly dependent smokers who did not display good knowledge/awareness of smoking related harms and reported to engage in high risk smoking behaviours. The majority reported notable motivation and confidence to quit in the future, despite or indeed for the benefit of addressing other dependencies. Of the many who had tried to quit in the past, all had done so on their own initiative, and several described a lack of support or active discouragement by practitioners to address smoking.

Conclusion: High levels of tobacco dependence and engagement in unique smoking related risk behaviours and social interplays appear to add to the vulnerability of homeless smokers. Given reported motivation, confidence, previous attempts and lack of support to quit, opportunities to address smoking in one of the most disadvantaged groups are currently missed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / complications*
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ill-Housed Persons*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk-Taking
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • Smoking Cessation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires