Providing Smoking Cessation Programs to Homeless Youth

The Perspective of Service Providers

Published in: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, v. 47, no. 4, Oct. 2014, p. 251-257

Posted on RAND.org on October 01, 2014

by William G. Shadel, Joan S. Tucker, Leslie Mullins, B. Lynette Staplefoote

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Research Question

  1. Do homeless youth in Los Angeles County currently receive services to help them quit smoking?

There is almost no information available on cigarette smoking among homeless youth, whether they are currently receiving services for smoking cessation, and how to best help them quit. This paper presents data collected from a series of semi-structured telephone interviews with service providers from 23 shelters and drop-in centers serving homeless youth in Los Angeles County about their current smoking cessation programming, interest in providing smoking cessation services to their clients, potential barriers to providing this service, and ways to overcome these barriers. Results indicated that 84% of facilities did not offer smoking cessation services, although nearly all (91%) were interested in doing so. Barriers to implementing formal smoking cessation programs on site included lack of resources (e.g., money, personnel) to support the programs, staff training, and concern that smoking cessation may not be a high priority for homeless youth themselves. Overall, service providers seemed to prefer a less intensive smoking cessation program that could be delivered at their site by existing staff. Data from this formative needs assessment will be useful for developing and evaluating a smoking cessation treatment that could be integrated into the busy, complex environment that characterizes agencies that serve homeless youth.

Key Findings

  • Almost all shelters and drop-in centers serving homeless youth in L.A. County are interested in offering smoking cessation programs, but the vast majority of them do not.
  • Lack of resources and staff training are cited as barriers.
  • Service providers seem to prefer a less intensive, on-site program that their own staff could offer.

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