Roll-your-own Cigarette Smoking Among Youth Experiencing Homelessness

Published in: Drug and Alcohol Dependence, Volume 205 (December 2019). doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2019.107632

by Joan S. Tucker, William G. Shadel, Rachana Seelam, Daniela Golinelli, Daniel Siconolfi

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Roll-your-own (RYO) cigarette smoking is uncommon among young smokers in the U.S. but may be more widespread among those experiencing homelessness as it is a less expensive source of cigarettes. This study examines the prevalence and correlates of RYO use among young cigarette smokers experiencing homelessness.


The analytic sample consisted of 433 unaccompanied homeless youth who reported past month use of factory-manufactured cigarettes. Participants were sampled from 25 street and service sites in Los Angeles County, and completed a survey on their tobacco-related behaviors and cognitions.


RYO use was reported by 43% of cigarette smokers. Among those who filled RYOs with tobacco, 87% rolled them with used tobacco (typically mixed with new tobacco). Most RYO smokers reported engaging in high-risk smoking practices, such as smoking discarded cigarettes. Although RYO smokers were more likely than other smokers to perceive RYOs as less risky in general, these groups did not differ in the perceived relative harm, expense, and ease of access of RYOs compared to regular cigarettes. Multivariable analyses indicated that RYO use was associated with older age, less perceived riskiness of RYOs, greater exposure to RYO smokers, and stronger future intentions to smoke.


RYOs may encourage continued tobacco use among youth experiencing homelessness and pose additional health risks despite users' beliefs to the contrary. Future research is needed to obtain more detailed information on RYO practices and motivations for use, as well as how to address RYOs in efforts to reduce tobacco use in this population.

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