Tobacco-free policies and treatment completions

photo credit: J Stephen Conn

Join Together reports on a new study finding that a tobacco-free policy adversely impacted retention rates at one treatment program.

Their post fails to mention that this is not the first study to shed light on this question of how tobacco-free treatment policies impact treatment outcomes.

A quick visit to our site would have offered a little more context for their post:

MYTH: “I’ll be more likely to leave or get myself discharged if I try to quit.”
FACT: Quitting smoking is not associated with people getting discharged or leaving treatment early.

  • A smoke-free policy had no adverse effect on treatment outcomes (Joseph, 1993)
  • Heavy smokers were more likely to leave treatment early. They leave smoking programs at the same rate. (Kempf, 1996)
  • Clients complained but didn’t leave at higher rates (Kempf, 1996)
  • Census increased after initiation of no-smoking policy (Kotz, 1993)
  • No smoking policy had no impact on numbers of patients seeking OP treatment or number of sessions attended (Sterling, 1994)
  • There was no increase in irregular discharges, or reductions in smokers entering treatment (Williams, 2005)


MYTH: “One thing at a time. Doing too much will increase relapse risk.”

FACT: The conventional wisdom of “wait a year before you quit smoking” is wrong. Trying to quit now will improve your chances of recovery.

  • Quitting smoking does not jeopardize sobriety/treatment outcomes. (Bobo, 1987; Bobo 1998; Burling, 1991; Cooney, 2003; Hurt, 2003; Joseph, 1993; Metz, 2005)
  • Clients who quit smoking were significantly more likely to report abstinence at follow-up (93% vs 62%) (Joseph, 2005)
  • Smoking cessation interventions were associated with 25% increased likelihood of long-term abstinence (Prochaska, 2004)
  • Treatment of tobacco dependence enhanced abstinence from drinking (Hurt, 2003)
  • 48% of non-tobacco users maintained sobriety for 12 months compared to 14% of tobacco users (Stuyt, 1997)