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Psychiatr Serv. 2009 Jan;60(1):100-7. doi: 10.1176/

Smoking restrictions and treatment for smoking: policies and procedures in psychiatric inpatient units in Australia.

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School of Psychology, University of Newcastle, Behavioural Sciences Building, University Dr., Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia.



Tobacco smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. Even though smoking prevalence in the general population has been reduced (20% smoke), prevalence rates remain high among psychiatric inpatients (70%-90%). This study aimed to identify smoking policies and procedures in public psychiatric inpatient units in New South Wales, Australia; the provision of "smoking care" in such units (for example, quit-smoking advice or nicotine replacement therapy); and policies and procedures associated with the assessment of smoking status and provision of smoking care.


A cross-sectional survey was mailed to all public psychiatric inpatient units in New South Wales for completion by nurse unit managers.


Of the 131 units, 123 units completed and returned surveys (94%). Over one-third (36%) of respondents reported instances in which inpatients began smoking during their admission. A similar proportion (39%) reported that staff provided cigarettes to patients who smoked when patients' supply was expended. Fifty percent of respondents reported that all patients were assessed for smoking status; however, 70% reported that nicotine dependence was not assessed. Units on which staff adhered to smoking restrictions were three times as likely to assess patients' smoking status as units where staff never adhered to restrictions (odds ratio=3.05, p=.01).


Inadequate establishment of nonsmoking environments and of smoking restriction enforcement as well as inconsistencies in the provision of smoking care were evident. The findings suggest that failure of psychiatric services to provide smoking care is systemic and not related to particular types of services (for example acute versus nonacute or regional versus metropolitan).

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