Introduction: Cigarette smoking declined from 42.4% in 1965 to 19.3% in 2010 among the general population, but it remains the leading cause of preventable death and illness in the United States, especially among high-risk populations, including those with criminal justice involvement.
Methods: A mixed-methods approach was used to investigate the smoking behaviors of men under parole or probation. Phase I focused on qualitative data of 30 semi-structured interviews of men who were recently released from a state prison and/or jail. Phase II analyzed quantitative data resulting from a study that examined smoking characteristics and treatment approaches of 259 participants, 197 of whom were cigarette smokers.
Results: The survey participants' age of tobacco initiation ranged from 7 to 45 years of age. Participants smoked between 1 and 40 cigarettes per day; the mean number of cigarettes smoked per day was 10.37. Men released from prison used cigarettes for more years on average than men released from jail (t = -2.22, p < .05). A linear regression procedure revealed that the influence of friends and family significantly predicted smoking behavior (β = .25, p < .0001). The qualitative data revealed the following themes: unintended consequences of the prison smoking ban, smoking as anxiety management, smoking cigarettes as part of a daily routine, and barriers to quitting.
Conclusions: Given the rapid growth of individuals under community supervision, public health and policy makers are missing an opportunity to develop strategies that promote smoking cessation treatments, especially among men who are serving parole or probation and during the incarceration period itself.