Using the Internet to Reach Smokers who are Homeless

computer the loop

The prevalence of cigarette smoking among people experiencing homelessness is 70%. A recently published study examined exposure to tobacco messaging among homeless smokers.  The researchers recruited a sample of adults experiencing homelessness who were current cigarette smokers (i.e. smoked in the past 30 days) from shelters and service sites in San Francisco. The survey explored self-reported use of internet and online streaming services, and exposure to tobacco messaging.


Findings included:

  • 75% of respondents reported using the internet and 67% reported using online streaming video in a typical week.
  • Many participants had seen online advertisements for tobacco products (42%) or anti-tobacco industry messages (46%), although participants reported seeing both advertisements and warnings related to tobacco more frequently offline than online.
  • Respondents who reported using the internet for more than 4 h in a typical week were more likely to recall seeing tobacco-related warnings or advertisements online.
  • Respondents who reported seeing tobacco-related warnings and advertisements were more likely to have attempted to quit smoking within the past year.


The researchers concluded that these findings suggest an opportunity to use the internet to communicate the harms of tobacco products with messages tailored towards adults experiencing homelessness.

Source: Elser et al. (2019). Exposure to pro- and anti-tobacco messages online and off-line among people experiencing homelessness. Preventive Medicine Report, Jul 3, 15, 100944.

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