Cigarette smoking is common among people in recovery from addiction, but it can lead to various long term health consequences, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

Cigarette smoking and drug addiction can occur together. Smoking is common among those in recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA),  about 65% to 85% of people in treatment for substance abuse smoke cigarettes. 

While cigarette smoking is common among those in recovery, there are some drawbacks to continuing smoking while in treatment for addiction.

Why Do People Smoke Cigarettes in Recovery?

Smoking is common in addiction recovery. Many people may wonder, “Why do people still smoke cigarettes when in rehab?” There are several reasons people may continue smoking cigarettes when recovering from addiction. One reason is that people may be uncertain about giving up smoking. They may worry that if they give up smoking, it will interfere with their abstinence from illegal drugs

Smoking may also serve as a coping mechanism or a form of stress relief while in treatment. When people feel a craving for drugs, they may instead smoke a cigarette to relieve the craving. This form of stress relief is often permitted by staff in rehab facilities who may condone cigarette smoking. 

How Many People Smoke Cigarettes in Recovery?

A recent study evaluated much of the prevalence data collected between 1987 and 2013. According to the study, about 84% of people in treatment for substance abuse are smokers, compared to 31% in the general population. 

How many people smoke cigarettes in recovery can vary based on the drug of choice. The study found that when compared to those in treatment for alcoholism, people recovering from opiate abuse were 2.52 times more likely to smoke. People in medication-assisted treatment for opiate abuse are also more likely to be cigarette users. 

Why Not Quit Smoking?

Smoking and recovery from addiction often occur together, as it can be difficult to give up cigarettes while also recovering from addiction to alcohol or drugs. For some people, trying to quit smoking can be an added strain during the recovery process. 

If a person is unable to remain abstinent from drugs and give up smoking simultaneously, this would be a reason to avoid quitting smoking. Given the choice between quitting drugs and giving up cigarettes, discontinuing drug use should be a priority. 

Dangers of Continued Nicotine Use

While giving up drug use should take precedence over quitting smoking, the long term effects of cigarette smoking can be severe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. It can also have a negative effect on dental health and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes, cataracts, macular degeneration, infertility, broken bones, miscarriage, birth defects and preterm delivery. 

The effects of smoking can be deadly. The CDC reports that cigarettes are responsible for about 90% of deaths related to lung cancer and 80% of COPD deaths. In men and women, smoking elevates the risk of death from any cause. Given the risk of fatal health consequences associated with nicotine use, giving up smoking is beneficial for those in recovery. 

Benefits of Quitting Smoking While in Recovery

The greatest benefit of quitting smoking while in recovery is that it can improve health and reduce the likelihood of long-term consequences such as cancer and heart disease. Quitting could also improve treatment outcomes.

Recovery can also be an ideal setting for receiving treatment for tobacco addiction. Among patients in recovery, medications and counseling are effective for promoting abstinence from cigarette use. If a person is able to quit smoking while in treatment without jeopardizing their recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, they will enjoy the benefits of remaining cigarette-free. 

If you or a loved one are ready to address a drug or alcohol addiction, contact The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative about receiving the treatment you need to live a healthier life.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Dr. Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has over seven years working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Do people with mental illness and s[…]bacco more often?” January 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019.

Baca, Catherine; Yahne, Carolina. “Smoking cessation during substance ab[…]you need to know.” Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 2009. Accessed July 19, 2019.

Guydish, Joseph, et al. “An international systematic review of smoking prevalence in addiction treatment.” Addiction, February 2016. Accessed July 19, 2019.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Health effects of cigarette smoking.” January 17, 2018. Accessed July 19, 2019.

Prochaska, Judith. “Failure to treat tobacco use in mental health and addiction treatment settings: A form of harm reduction?” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, August 2010. Accessed July 20, 2019.

Apollonio, Dorie, et al. “Interventions for tobacco use cessa[…]ce use disorders.” Cochrane Library, November 23, 2016. Accessed July 20, 2019.



Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.