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Smoking cessation in male prisoners: a literature review

Ashleigh Djachenko (School of Nursing & Midwifery, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)
Winsome St John (School of Nursing & Midwifery/Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)
Creina Mitchell (School of Nursing & Midwifery/Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Gold Coast, Australia)

International Journal of Prisoner Health

ISSN: 1744-9200

Publication date: 16 March 2015



The purpose of this paper is to review the available literature relating to smoking cessation (SC) for the male prisoner population.


Databases PubMed, CINAHL and MEDLINE were searched for English language studies from 1990 to 2012. The authors identified 12 papers examining SC in male prisoners. Full-text articles were analysed for inclusion.


A total of 12 studies were identified for inclusion. Four studies focused on forced abstinence (a smoking ban) while the remainder looked at various combinations of nicotine replacement, pharmacology and behavioural techniques. No robust studies were found that examined nursing approaches to SC for the prisoner population. The evidence shows a strong “pro-smoking” culture in prison and that many prisoners continue to smoke irrespective of an enforced ban. However, SC strategies can be successful if implemented systematically and supported by consistent policies.

Research limitations/implications

Female-only prisoner studies were excluded as females comprise just 7 per cent of the Australian prisoner population. The analysis does not differentiate between maximum- or minimum-security prisons, or length of prison sentence. Results cannot be generalised to other forms of detention such as police custody or immigration detention centres. Studies were not appraised for quality, as exclusion on that basis would render further exploration untenable. The analysis was presented in a narrative rather than meta-analytical format and may be subject to interpretation.

Practical implications

This paper provides a foundation on which to build further research evidence into the smoking behaviour of prisoners. This information can be used to advocate for healthier public policy for a vulnerable and marginalised population.


To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first literature review into SC interventions in prisons. The authors apply the findings of this literature review to the five strategies for health promotion to propose a population approach to smoking cessation in male prisoners. Recommendations specific to the correctional environment are outlined for consideration by correctional health professionals.



Djachenko, A., St John, W. and Mitchell, C. (2015), "Smoking cessation in male prisoners: a literature review", International Journal of Prisoner Health, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 39-48.



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