U.K. Proposes Smoking Ban in Prisons

LONDON — Prisons in the U.K. are planning to ban cigarette smoking in facilities by 2015. BBC reported that an estimated 80 percent of inmates in the U.K. are believed to be smokers. In a strange swap, the Prison Service said that after the ban is in place, nicotine patches will be offered to inmates as a “substitute.”

“We are considering banning smoking across the prison estate and as part of this are looking at possible sites as early adopters,” said a Prison Service spokesman to BBC.

The ban will prohibit inmates from smoking in all areas of the facility, including outside yards. A Prison Service spokesperson also added, “… the time is right for the prison estate to adopt a tobacco and smoke-free policy to provide a smoke-free workplace/environment for our staff and prisoners.”

Dave Matthews, governor of the Guernsey Prison in the U.K. told BBC that a smoking ban at Les Nicolles jail has been effective.

“We have removed tobacco but also provided prisoners with some assistance to try and give up their nicotine habit through the form of patches and the use of Quitline,” said Matthews to BBC.

Matthews also told BBC that for those who did not opt for the nicotine patch, the prison has allowed inmates to purchase e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a much safer way than traditional smoking/cigarettes.

The U.K. is not alone in its fight to ban smoking nationwide in facilities. The U.S. has slowly started to ban smoking in several states and facilities. Back in 2008, Michigan proposed a smoking ban — the state reported that 70 percent of its inmates were tobacco users — and put the ban in motion in 2009.

Although many are in favor of the ban in the U.K., others have expressed fear that the ban could lead to violent disturbances.

“People smoke in prison for two main reasons: It’s incredibly boring and incredibly stressful,” said Ben Gunn, ex-prisoner and prison campaigner told BBC. “If you take away that psychological crutch it could have significant consequences.”

The debate is likely to continue as the ban is not proposed to go into effect until 2015.