Inmates deserve more help quitting cigarettes, Rutgers study says
Many inmates in state prison facilities want to quit smoking, new research finds, but chances are they can't easily do it on their own.
A recently-published study out of Rutgers School of Public Health claims folks behind bars need better resources to help them kick the dirty habit.
Examining the smoking behaviors and characteristics of 169 inmates in three state correctional facilities in the Northeast, the research found a good amount of both black and non-black inmates are interested in dropping the habit, but a majority had not used any form of smoking cessation treatment to help them quit. Less than half had a medical professional in prison talk to them about quitting.
Lead author Pamela Valera said many prisons have introduced smoking bans, but that doesn't do much to prevent prisoners from returning to smoking after their release. In New Jersey, state prisons are 100 percent smoke-free indoors and related products are considered contraband, but smoking is permitted for staff and visitors in designated areas outdoors.
"They should be provided with comprehensive smoking cessation treatment. That includes pharmacotherapy like patches, the gum and lozenges, and also individual and group-based counseling," Valera said. "The challenge there is who's going to provide that, how it's going to be paid, and we need to train prison officials to provide these types of treatment."
But, she noted, taxpayers are already covering the bill for prisoners' healthcare expenses. And if tobacco cessation resources are nonexistent in prison, she said, inmates will have bigger health problems to deal with down the line when they're back in the community.
Valera said research has shown the rate of smoking can be as high as 50 to 83 percent in prison populations. New Jersey's smoking rate among adults is 14 percent.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.