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Lack of support for former prisoners to stay smoke-free

New study finds lack of support for former prisoners to stay smoke-free

A new study released today has found that New Zealanders who have successfully quit smoking while in prison receive a lack of support in staying smoke-free after being released.

The pilot study was conducted by a team of medical students at the University of Otago, and found that many prisoners want to remain smoke-free after leaving prison, but without sufficient support will often relapse back to smoking.

Hāpai Te Hauora CEO, Lance Norman, states that "we’re proud that Aotearoa became the first country to introduce a nation-wide smoke-free prison policy, but despite declines in tobacco use, our whānau in prison and under community supervision are up to three times more likely to suffer from tobacco dependency".

The study’s recommendations center on increasing proven cessation support services such as NRT (nicotine replacement therapy) and behavioural therapy, and Norman adds to this by addressing the social determinants of tobacco consumption. Norman states, "we know from our mahi in the community with whānau that a great deal of tobacco dependence stems from stress; stress from socio-economic hardship like housing and unemployment. We may see quite different results if these stressors were better addressed in the reintegration period".
The relationship between social stressors, risky health behaviours, and smoking cessation appears to be understudied in people recently released from prison, but Norman says that these findings are not surprising. Norman states, "the stress of reintegration can be really tough, so it’s great to have research like this that confirms that we need to be thinking about continuity of care; understanding how can reintegration services can work collaboratively with health services to ensure the best possible outcomes for whānau".

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