NIH Spends $186K to Help Homeless Kick Smoking Habit

July 14, 2014 - 10:20 AM

No Smoking Colleges

In this Tuesday, June 26, 2012 photo, Bartholomew Brown, a junior studying mechanical engineering at Cleveland State University, smokes as he reads a book between classes in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

( – The National Institutes of Health has awarded $186,192 to Massachusetts General Hospital to study ways to help the homeless stop smoking.

According to the grant, an estimated 2.3 to 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness each year, and three-quarters of them smoke cigarettes.

Homeless people also “experience considerably higher rates of illness and premature mortality than those in the U.S. general population, but very few studies have focused on addressing tobacco use as a contributor to these disparities,” the grant said.

“Cigarette smoking is over three times more common among homeless individuals in comparison to the U.S. general population, contributing to excess morbidity and mortality,” the grant said. “Despite this disparity, there is relatively little research on the tobacco use characteristics and predictors of readiness to quit in homeless smokers.

“Few studies have rigorously tested smoking cessation interventions in this population, and those conducted to date have demonstrated generally modest results,” the grant said.

There are three scientific objectives:

  • to eliminate smoking-attributable mortality, morbidity, and health care utilization in a cohort of homeless adults,
  • to describe the tobacco use characteristics of homeless smokers and assess the factors influencing decisional balance for smoking, reward value of smoking, and readiness to quit, and
  • to conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial to assess the feasibility and efficacy of a cash-based contingency management (CM) tobacco cessation intervention for homeless smokers.

“The proposed research plan will enumerate the medical consequences of smoking in homeless adults, describe the tobacco use characteristics of homeless smokers, and test a novel intervention that uses financial incentives to promote smoking reduction and cessation in this population.”

The project started on Aug. 1, 2012 and ends on July 31, 2017. The budget start date was Aug. 1, 2013 and ends on July 31, 2014.

Calls and e-mails to Travis Baggett, the project leader, were not returned by press time.