• Homeless persons;
  • smoking cessation;
  • tobacco use



We determined whether or not homelessness is associated with cigarette smoking independent of other socio-economic measures and behavioral health factors, and whether homeless smokers differ from non-homeless smokers in their desire to quit.

Design, setting and participants

We analyzed data from 2678 adult respondents to the 2009 Health Center Patient Survey, a nationally representative cross-sectional survey of homeless and non-homeless individuals using US federally funded community health centers.


We used multivariable logistic regression to examine the association between homelessness and (i) current cigarette smoking among all adults, and (ii) past-year desire to quit among current smokers, adjusting for demographic, socio-economic and behavioral health characteristics.


Adults with any history of homelessness were more likely than never homeless respondents to be current smokers (57 versus 27%, P < 0.001). In multivariable models, a history of homelessness was associated independently with current smoking [adjusted odds ratio (AOR) 2.09; 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.49–2.93], even after adjusting for age, sex, race, veteran status, insurance, education, employment, income, mental illness and alcohol and drug abuse. Housing status was not associated significantly with past-year desire to stop smoking in unadjusted (P = 0.26) or adjusted (P = 0.60) analyses; 84% of currently homeless, 89% of formerly homeless and 82% of never homeless smokers reported wanting to quit.


Among patients of US health centers, a history of homelessness doubles the odds of being a current smoker independent of other socio-economic factors and behavioral health conditions. However, homeless smokers do not differ from non-homeless smokers in their desire to quit and should be offered effective interventions.