Smoking behaviours among young people in custody in New South Wales, Australia


Devon Indig BSc, MPH, PhD, Head of Research and Conjoint Senior Lecturer, Leigh Haysom MBBS, FRACP (Paeds), PhD, MSc (Med), MMed (Clin Epi), Clinical Director. Dr Devon Indig, Centre for Health Research in Criminal Justice, Justice Health, Suite 302, Level 2, 152 Bunnerong Road, Pagewood, NSW 2035, Australia. Tel: +61 (02) 8372 3010; Fax: +61 (02) 9344 4151; E-mail:


Introduction and Aims. Despite smoking prevalence reductions in the general community, rates remain high among socially disadvantaged populations. This study describes the prevalence and predictors for smoking among young people in custody.

Design and Methods. The 2009 NSW Young People in Custody Health Survey was conducted in nine juvenile detention centres. This paper reports on findings from the baseline questionnaire which included questions about smoking behaviours. Chi-squared statistics were used to compare the smoking characteristics by gender and Aboriginality. Logistic regression was used to determine predictors of smoking behaviours.

Results. The baseline questionnaire included 316 participants with a response rate of 83%. The sample was 88% male, 48% Aboriginal, with an average age of 17 years (range 13–21 years). Nearly all (94%) participants had ever smoked tobacco, with 79% reporting smoking daily prior to custody. Predictors of heavy smoking (20 or more cigarettes per day) prior to custody included being female, high psychological distress and conduct disorder. Predictors for being a current smoker included being on remand, risky drinking and most or all friends as smokers. Predictors of being an aspirational smoker (will smoke on release) included using illicit drugs at least weekly prior to custody, and having most or all friends as smokers

Discussion and Conclusions. Rates of smoking in young people entering custody are exceptionally high. Many young people continue to smoke during their incarceration, with an increasing aspiration to smoke upon release. Effective programs are needed that address these smoking behaviours in young people in custody.[Indig D, Haysom L. Smoking behaviours among young people in custody in New South Wales, Australia. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:631–637]