By Rachel Leber
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — While a smoking ban will officially begin in Missouri prisons on April 1, 2018, the new mandate by the Missouri DOC is no joke. Smoking was already extremely restricted to designated areas for inmates in Missouri prisons, and now the policy has become even stricter.
The new policy is in compliance with a court order that came after a federal jury ruling in September 2017, when an inmate sued the Missouri DOC for suffering health effects from secondhand smoke, according to the News Tribune. As a result, the DOC has agreed to implement a policy banning the sale, possession and use of all tobacco products within the perimeter of each DOC institution — including outdoor areas — as well as inside all buildings and vehicles owned or leased by the department.
The new non-smoking Missouri DOC policy is not just for inmates — it applies to any and all people entering the prison for any reason, including staff, volunteers, contracted staff, visitors, clients and, of course, the inmates themselves. And, the policy is not limited to the smoking of cigarettes alone — it applies to any and all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping devices, chewing tobacco and any other tobacco-containing substance, according to the Missouri government website.
However, a designated smoking area will be available for use by employees and visitors outside the perimeter of all department facilities and buildings, as required by state statute.
As a way to support staff and inmates who will need to give up smoking, prison staff will be offered free smoking-cessation products, educational materials and classes through their health plan. Inmates will be able to purchase nicotine replacement products, and will have access to classes and counseling, according to AP News.
In an effort to prepare all involved for the April 1 transition, the Missouri DOC will gradually reduce the amount of tobacco each offender may purchase or have in his or her possession, leading up to the cessation of all tobacco product sales on March 16. For example for the month of January, five pouches of loose tobacco per inmate will be permitted, reducing to three pouches in February and then down to two in March.