Prisoners who quit cigarettes while in prison do not get the support to stay smokefree once they are released, according to new research.
A team of medical students from the University of Otago conducted a study, which showed that many prisoners relapse after release, and the results have been published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.
The findings are in line with international research, says Professor Richard Edwards, from the Department of Public Health at the university.
New Zealand prisons were made smokefree in 2011.
"This study was small in scale, but it threw up some interesting findings that are worthy of more in-depth exploration," Prof Edwards said.
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Medical student Sarah Twine said prisoners told them that returning to social settings where smoking was common was difficult.
"For some, the stress of reintegration was a factor," she said.
Hapai Te Hauora (Māori Public Health) chief executive Lance Norman says Māori are still three times more likely to suffer from tobacco dependency.
"A great deal of tobacco dependence stems from stress - stress from socio-economic hardship like housing and unemployment," he said.
"We may see quite different results if these stressors were better addressed in the reintegration period."
He said the research findings are not surprising.
"It's great to have research like this that confirms that we need to be thinking about continuity of care."