Tobacco-Free Policies May Reduce Completion Rates at Substance Abuse Treatment Centers

Instituting tobacco-free policies at substance abuse treatment centers may discourage participants from completing the program, a study of an Ohio program for women suggests. The study found that when such a policy was implemented, both smokers and nonsmokers were more likely to stop treatment early.

Science Daily reports that the researchers said this drop in treatment completion does not mean treatment centers shouldn’t try implementing tobacco-free policies. But their findings show how difficult it can be to introduce a new policy.

“Even a well-planned and evidence-informed programming change to tobacco-free programming has the potential for significant impact on the treatment climate and negative treatment outcome,” they wrote in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions.

The study found that after the center’s implementation of a tobacco-free policy, the number of women who completed a program at the center dropped 28 percent, from 70 percent in the 18 months before the ban, to 42 percent within the first three months after the ban took effect.

While 20 percent of smokers and 7 percent of nonsmokers checked out of the center early when smoking was allowed, early checkouts increased to 42 percent of smokers and 22 percent of nonsmokers after the ban was implemented.

Thomas Gregoire, co-author of the study and Associate Professor of Social Work at Ohio State University, said that many treatment facilities allow patients to smoke because officials feel that trying to get someone to stop smoking, in addition to treating their other substance abuse issues, would be too complicated and would be likely to fail. Some centers may also fear that banning smoking would be bad for business, he said. However he added that past research has shown that treating patients for tobacco addiction along with other substance abuse issues is most likely best for patients.

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    May 10, 2011 at 12:39 PM

    In creating a TF policy for a treatment center it would be much better if the treatment center in addition could provide no cost or low cost tobacco treatment. Maybe the dropout rate would not be so high. In NYS this works.

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    Jesper Kristensen

    May 9, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    …and why not treat obesity, bad eating habits, biting your nails and everything else?

    Or maybe the high-brow apostles of clean, wholesome living should, just for once, try to focus on the most important issues facing the “inmates”?

    Besides, as one other poster said, there’s this new, wonderful thing called the electronic cigarette. It works.

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