A new Rutgers School of Public Health study finds that many inmates want to quit smoking but don’t have access to smoking cessation programs in state prisons, increasing the risk – especially among black male inmates — of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other smoking-related diseases.
The study examined smoking behaviors and characteristics of 169 black and non-black male inmates in three state correctional facilities in the Northeast to identify racial differences in their smoking behaviors and motivation to quit. Some previous studies suggest that black male smokers – in and out of prison – may be less likely to respond to treatment than other racial and ethnic groups despite their stronger desire to quit.
“Our study will help health researchers and smoking cessation treatment specialists to better understand the smoking behaviors of inmates – why they begin and continue to smoke – in order to better tailor and implement important cessation programs to assist them in quitting for life,” said Dr. Valera lead study author and an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health.
Statistics show that black men are six times more likely to be imprisoned than non-Hispanic white men. They also face higher rates of cigarette smoking both in and out of prison and are more likely to die from smoking-related diseases.
Given the high rates of tobacco related problems in U.S. prisons and racial disparity, relapse to smoking is common among black inmates and black men returning to society. Dr. Valera said many prisons could add additional resources to help inmates quit tobacco smoke but have instead introduced smoking bans, which cannot prevent inmate from smoking or prevent them from returning to smoking after their release.
“Despite the number of different smoking cessation aids available, less than half of the people in both study groups had a medical professional in prison talk to them about quitting,” said Dr. Valera. “Many of these inmates want to quit. They just lack the means and understanding on how to do so.”
Dr. Valera’s recommendations include:
The smoking behavior trends found in the study include:
“The smoking behaviors of incarcerated smokers,” was recently published in Health Psychology Open.