A significant percentage of people in addiction treatment and recovery use nicotine and tobacco products, but it could create cues and triggers contributing to relapse.

There may be people who are looking for rehabs that allow smoking specifically. Some do allow it, but there are also potential adverse effects on recovery when someone continues to use nicotine and tobacco products.The pros and cons of continuing to smoke while in rehab might be worth considering before starting treatment. 

How Common Is Smoking in Recovery?

There are often people in rehab programs as well as 12-step groups who smoke. Some people may come into treatment already smoking, but for others, it’s a habit they begin in treatment. It’s not uncommon1 for people going into treatment for addiction to use cigarettes, vaping, or similar products to help them through the challenges of recovery.

A few things to know, according to5 the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, include:

  • 60-75% of patients in treatment for alcohol addiction are tobacco-dependent.
  • 40-50% are heavy smokers.
  • Up to 80% of people with an alcohol use disorder in addiction treatment are interested in quitting smoking.

Other research cites: 

  • The prevalence of smoking in addiction treatment clients ranges between 49% and 98%6.
  • Adults with a mental health disorder or substance use disorder account for around 40% of all cigarettes smoked7.

Among adolescents at short-term residential addiction treatment centers, the rate of smoking researchers found was 79%8. Smoking was associated with the onset of alcohol and other drugs of abuse. Heavy smoking was connected to cocaine and opioid addiction. In this study, more than half the sample hadn’t contemplated stopping smoking yet, and 30% were thinking about it. Twelve percent8 were in the preparation stage, meaning they were ready to stop within 30 days.

Negative Effects of Smoking Prohibitions in Recovery

While smoking can have negative health effects and impact recovery in adverse ways, there are possible downsides of banning it in recovery that need to be considered. The risk can be that it would stress someone out or overwhelm them3 to stop using multiple substances at once. 

In 12-step programs, for example, the idea is that allowing members to continue smoking can help them stay focused and not worry about making too many additional changes. Some of these meetings also allow smoking to help improve the sense of fellowship among people in recovery, which could be diminished if smoking were prohibited.

The goal of any treatment program is to get someone to accept treatment. Anything that could hinder that can be potentially problematic. 

How Smoking May Affect Recovery

While the traditional approach was often that it was best to allow people to continue to smoke during addiction treatment and their recovery, newer research indicates this may not be the best approach. 

A meta-analysis looking at smoking cessation studies in people in substance use disorder treatment or recovery found that smoking cessation interventions along with addiction treatment led to a 25% higher likelihood3 of long-term abstinence from drugs and alcohol. 

Other research3 found smoking cigarettes increased the likelihood of relapse among people in recovery from a substance use disorder. Researchers found people who smoked at their initial interview and were still smoking three years later were around 1.5 times more likely3 to use drugs and twice as likely to have a substance use disorder at follow-up compared to people who quit smoking. 

Among non-smokers at the point of the initial interview, those who started smoking afterward were nearly five times more likely3 to report using substances at follow-up. Researchers concluded that smoking cigarettes can accompany illicit drug use and may serve as a drug cue and relapse trigger. 

Some studies also link nicotine exposure to cravings for opiates and stimulants3. Although substances have different pharmacological effects, any drug of abuse affects the same reward pathway3. Abstaining from all of them can help people move into a new mental and physical state.  

How Can I Get Cigarettes While in Rehab?

If a rehab allows cigarettes on-premises, people can bring their own. Even though someone might not be able to leave the treatment facility for a period of time, if they need more, they can often have people bring them during visitation. Some treatment centers let staff provide residents with cigarettes, but the rules between programs and facilities vary.

Can I Smoke E-Cigarettes or Vape in Rehab?

Smoking e-cigarettes or vaping in rehab is similar to smoking cigarettes. Some people might use e-cigarettes or vape as a coping mechanism while going through a transitional period in their recovery. Whether or not this is allowed depends on the facility and its rules. If someone does choose to vape or use e-cigarettes and it’s allowed, they have to be mindful that there’s still nicotine in these products. That nicotine could potentially be a substance misuse cue10 for them or remind them in some way of alcohol or drug use, increasing the risk of relapse.

Find a Rehab That Allows Smoking in New Jersey

If you want to find a rehab that allows smoking in New Jersey, The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper does permit it, with some limitations. Limitations include:

  • Smoking is only permitted in designated areas.
  • No vaping is allowed.
  • E-cigarettes aren’t allowed.
  • Chewing tobacco may be allowed.
  • If you plan to smoke, you are encouraged to bring enough cigarettes for your entire stay.
  • Smoking break frequency is determined by your doctor’s recommendations and treatment schedule.

If you’re considering treatment with The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, our clinical team can offer you nicotine cessation options during your stay. By taking steps to rid your body of all addictive substances, you can start fresh and feel more empowered to learn healthy coping mechanisms.

If you’d like to learn more about medical detox and personalized rehab programs at our facility, contact our team today.

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  1. Grigsby, Timothy J., Forster, Myriam, and Sussman, Steve. “A perspective on cigarette smoking durin[…]stance use treatment.” Substance Use & Misuse, April 7, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  2. NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Tobacco, Nicotine, and E-Cigarette Resea[…]s nicotine addictive?” May 2022. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  3. McKelvey, Karma, Thrul, Johannes, and Ramo, Danielle. “Impact of quitting smoking and smoking c[…]and narrative review.” Addictive Behaviors, 2017. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  4. Guydish, Joseph, et al. “An International Systematic Review of Sm[…]iction Treatment.”Addiction, February 2016. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  5. Gulliver, Suzy Bird Ph.D. Kamholz, Barbara W. Ph.D. and Helstrom, Amy W. Ph.D. “Smoking Cessation and Alcohol Abstinence[…]the Data Tell Us?” NIH National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  6. Guydish, Joseph Ph.D. et al. “Smoking Prevalence in Addiction Treatment: A Review.” Oxford Journals Nicotine & Tobacco Research, April 4, 2011. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  7. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. “Adults with Mental Illness or Substance […]igarettes Smoked.” SAMHSA, March 20, 2013. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  8. Fortuna, Lisa, Porche, Michelle V., Alam, Nazum., and Douglass, Krista M. “Smoking and Co-Occurring Disorders: Impl[…]iction Treatment.” Journal of Dual Diagnosis, April 2012. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  9. Sarlin, Eric, M.Ed., M.A., “Cigarette Smoking Increases the Likeliho[…] of Drug Use Relapse.” NIH National Institute on Drug Abuse, May 31, 2018. Accessed August 12, 2022.
  10. Lv, Wanwan et al. “Cue Reactivity in Nicotine and Alcohol A[…] Cross-Cultural View.” Frontiers Psychology, August 31, 2016. Accessed August 12, 2022.
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a 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 provider.