High-risk smoking behaviors and barriers to smoking cessation among homeless individuals

Joseph S. Chen, Austin Huy Nguyen, Mark A. Malesker, Lee E. Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Although tobacco practices and the effects of tobacco use among the general American population are well described, minimal data exist regarding tobacco use and barriers to smoking cessation among homeless individuals. METHODS: Anonymous, voluntary surveys based on a previously implemented instrument were completed by 100 smoking individuals residing at a homeless shelter. These surveys assessed high-risk smoking behaviors and respondents’ perceived barriers to long-term smoking cessation. RESULTS: Ninety percent of study participants reported engaging in at least one of the high-risk tobacco practices. Nicotine replacement therapy was perceived by respondents to be the most desired form of smoking cessation aid. Excessive stress with use of tobacco smoking to alleviate stress and anxiety was the most significant self-perceived barrier to smoking cessation. CONCLUSIONS: High-risk tobacco practices are remarkably common among smoking homeless individuals. Despite literature consistently showing that non-nicotine tobacco cessation pharmacotherapies (varenicline, buproprion) have higher smoking cessation rates, nicotine replacement monotherapy was perceived as more valuable by survey respondents. Although lack of financial resources was expected to be the biggest barrier to successful cessation, social stressors and the use of smoking to cope with homelessness were perceived as a greater obstacle in this cohort. Given the paucity of data on the long-term effects of the high-risk tobacco behaviors reported by these homeless smokers, this study highlights the need for further investigations regarding tobacco use and tobacco cessation in this vulnerable population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)640-645
Number of pages6
JournalRespiratory Care
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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