Evaluation of the 'Quitters are Winners' course, a prison based cessation program

By Molly McCarthy and Judi Brewster

CBRC Research Paper Series No. 38 


Smoking rates amongst prisoners are considerably higher than the general community, with a recent study in NSW prisons suggesting as many as 79% of prisoners are current smokers1. Prisoner populations face unique and significant challenges with regard to smoking cessation. In response to the unique needs of prisoner populations, Quit Victoria partnered with Corrections Victoria in 1998 to develop a tailored smoking cessation program for prisoners, entitled "Quitters are Winners".

This evaluation covers Quitters are Winners courses run from 2002 to 2007 across seven prisons around Victoria.  The evaluation methodology consisted of a series of standardised interviews delivered at three time points: prior to commencement of the course; at 1 month following completion of the course; and at 3 months following the end of the course. In total, 358 prisoners who were current smokers completed the pre-course interview. Of these, 132 (38%) completed the one -month follow up interview, and 82 (23%) completed the three-month follow up interview.

Most participants were aged between 30 to 49 years of age (56%, n = 201), with 30% (n=107) aged between 18 to 29 years and 14% (n=50) aged over 50years. Of those prisoners who completed the Quitters are Winners course (n=181), 25% were quit at one-month follow up while 14% were quit at three-month follow up.

Using an intention to treat analysis, 13% of prisoners were found to have quit at one month following completion of the course, while 7% were quit at three months following the course.  Ninety percent of those still smoking reported having reduced cigarette consumption at one-month follow up, and 72% had reduced consumption at three-month follow up.

The overwhelming majority of those still smoking reported that they felt better prepared to quit in the future (95% at one month follow up and 94% at three month follow up). The evaluation of the Quitters are Winners course has demonstrated that a prison based cessation course can be effective in assisting prisoners to quit smoking, to reduce consumption, and to feel better prepared to quit in the future. The alarmingly high smoking rates amongst prisoners, and the incumbent health risks posed by this to both prisoners and prison staff, alongside the high levels of motivation amongst prisoners to quit smoking, demonstrate a clear need for cessation support to be prioritised in prison settings.