A cross-sectional survey of smoking and cessation support policies in a sample of homeless services in the United Kingdom

Sharon Cox*, Jaimi Murray, Allison Ford, Lucy Holmes, Deborah Robson, Lynne Dawkins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Smoking is extremely common amongst adults experiencing homelessness. To date, there is no nationally representative data on how tobacco dependence is treated and if and how smoking cessation is supported across the homeless sector. The aim of this study was to document smoking and e-cigarette policies of UK homeless services and identify areas of good practice and where improvements could be made. Methods: A cross-sectional survey with homeless centre staff was conducted between June 2020-December 2020 totalling 99 homeless centres. Quotas were stratified based on population and service type across Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, and England. Interviews were conducted over the phone or online in a minority of cases. Survey questions were themed to assess, i) onsite smoking and e-cigarette (vaping) policies ii) screening and recording of smoking status, iii) cessation training and resources available to staff, iv) cessation support for service users. Results: 92% accounted for smoking within their policies in some form (stand-alone policy (56%) or embedded within another health and safety policy (36%)). 84% allowed smoking in at least some (indoor and outdoor) areas. In areas where smoking was not allowed, vaping was also disallowed in 96% of cases. Staff smoking rates were 23% and 62% of centres reported staff smoked with service users. Just over half (52%) reported screening and recording smoking status and 58% made referrals to Stop Smoking Services (SSS), although established links with SSS were low (12%) and most centres did not provide staff training on supporting smoking cessation. Areas of good practice included regular offers of smoking cessation support embedded in routine health reviews or visits from SSS and offering tangible harm reduction support. Areas for improvement include staff training, staff smoking with service users and skipping routine screening questions around smoking. Conclusions: Smoking is accounted for across different policy types and restricted in some areas within most settings. Smoking cessation support is not routinely offered across the sector and there is little involvement with the SSS.

Original languageEnglish
Article number635
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • E-cigarette
  • Harm reduction
  • Homelessness
  • Policies
  • Smoking
  • Smoking cessation
  • Survey
  • Tobacco
  • Vaping


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