Effects of disasters on smoking and relapse: An exploratory study of hurricane katrina victims


Background: Psychosocial stress maintains cigarette use and precipitates relapse, but little is known about how natural disasters in particular affect smoking. Purpose: To determine the feasibility of recruiting victims soon after a natural disaster for a survey study, and to assess the types and determinants of changes in smoking behavior resulting from exposure to the disaster. Methods: A convenience sample of 35 Hurricane Katrina refugees who had smoked more than 100 cigarettes in their lifetime were surveyed one month after the storm to evaluate changes in smoking behavior. Results: Among a small sample of former smokers, more than half relapsed after Katrina, citing stress, urge, and sadness. Among current smokers, 52% increased their smoking after Katrina by more than half a pack per day on average. Most individuals who increased their smoking or relapsed expressed interest in receiving cessation assistance within the next month. Discussion: Stress-related increases in smoking and relapse may be common after a natural disaster. Translation to Health Education Practice: Health education professionals have an important role to play in responding to changes in tobacco use in the aftermath of disasters. Educational interventions to discourage tobacco use as a coping strategy may be especially warranted given the high level of interest expressed in smoking cessation. © 2008 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

Publication Title

American Journal of Health Education