A total smoking ban is set to be rolled out across all long-term and high security prisons in England and Wales at the end of this month.
The ban follows years of debate between the Prison Officers’ Association (POA), the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the prison community.
Research shows that 80% of the inmate population smokes cigarettes and 5% of non-smokers entering the system will be smokers by the end of their sentence.
Proponents of the ban, such as the POA, cite health and safety concerns, arguing that it’s unreasonable to subject prison officers and non-smoking inmates to such high levels of second-hand smoke.
However, the DoJ has traditionally sided with the smoking population, stating that the 2007 Health Act prohibiting smoking in enclosed workspaces does not apply to prison cells as they are legally classed as ‘homes’ rather than workplaces.
The smoke-free policy has already been implemented in a number of institutions and has not been without its problems.
Tobacco was banned at HMP Erlestoke in Wiltshire in May this year. Within three weeks serious riots had broken out, resulting in the severe damage of two cells and the transfer of 130 protesting inmates.
An increased uptake of Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is likely to follow the ban. However, abuse of treatments such as nicotine patches is already a serious problem. The ‘e-burn’ e-cigarette may the solution.
The device has been designed with prisons and secure units in mind. It is tamper-proof, making it difficult to weaponise or misuse for the delivery of new psychoactive substances (NPS), such as ‘Spice’ and ‘Black Mamba.’
Research suggests that use of e-cigarettes instead of traditional NRT could result in savings of £15,000 per year.
The e-burn is currently being trialled at the Isle of Man prison and feedback so far is optimistic.