Smoking in Prisons – Time to Ban it?

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The Health Act 2006 brought-in a total ban in England to stop smoking in all enclosed work places, which came into force in July 2007 – this followed the lead of other UK counties (Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland) which had introduced similar bans. [Some private companies had much earlier introduced such bans in their factories and offices – fearing being sued by staff contracting cancer due to passive smoking].

The original bill’s proposal was for only incomplete smoking restrictions, but this partial ban was a controversial move opposed by many MPs and it was successfully amended; it turned out that nine out of ten people taking part in a public consultation process actually favoured the TOTAL ban!

This Bill was said to be ‘a hugh step forward for public health’ (but unsurprisingly is widely opposed by the tobacco industry and the licensed trade!). What most people didn’t realise though was that the ban had some exemptions – one of which is prisons.

So in our prisons our criminals can puff away in their cells (even if sharing with a non-smoker!) to their hearts content (of some eighty five thousand inmates, about eighty percent are smokers), making themselves ill and causing passive smoking dire consequences to their fellow inmates and the prison staff. Just because people are crooks or other offenders, and are banged up, doesn’t give them immunity from tobacco related illnesses including cancer, bronchitis, and emphysema. The staff and non-smoking inmates equally are not immune from the dangers and illnesses caused by passive smoking. Apart from what must be a massive cost of healthcare in prisons from smoking (and when prisoners are released) there is the likelihood of being sued by those who get ill.

The Prison Service recently announced (Sept 2013) that smokings ban was being considered for prisons in England & Wales. About time too we say! Time to create a smoke free work place. Six years ago the Prison Officers Association (POA) began campaigning for a smoking ban in all UK prisons. [Smoking is already banned in Young Offenders institutions].

The Do-Gooders & Howard League for Prison Reform et al, doubtlessly will oppose such a ban (the human rights card will be played once again!) – every one of them ignoring the wellbeing of ALL the people concerned –  and some people will claim it will be destabilising and cause troubles in prisons. They needed worry too much, the inmates will be given nicotine patches (and perhaps other drugs to help them along)! Tobacco products are very addictive and if prisoners are weaned off them it will save them a fortune when they are released into society – perhaps that might stop the need for the thieves to steal!

Our prisons have been turned into pseudo-Holiday Camps, where the criminals simply rest up, at an enormous cost to the rest of us in society, for increasingly short times (sentences trashed because of lack of space), with these inmates getting looked after and supplied with all they need for the good life inside – good food, TVs and multi-gyms galore! In Prison, apart from the smoking, drug taking is rife, and boozing is common place – inmates have even used alcoholic antibacterial gel to get drunk, but normally they make their own illegal hooch. Such illicit alcohol production is a common problem, but one prison (Lewes) has this year cut prisoners fruit rations to try to halt production when the position became critical!

When they get out after the cushy easy-life in the jailhouse, these criminals have learnt NOTHING, have no fear of jail, and inevitably go back to their life of crime. Trying to punish these people simply by removing them from society by locking them up for a while DOESN’T WORK!

Isn’t it time we had some tough institutions and a few hell-holes for repeat offenders?

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Many many other countries (over 100) also have some form of smoking ban (and some of these a ban on tobacco advertising as well) – Albania, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech, Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Guatemala, Guernsey, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India[, Indonesia, Iran , Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico,  Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, United Nations, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City, Venezuela , Vietnam, and Zambia.

A small number of countries have introduced smoking bans in prison, including the majority of US states, Canada, New Zealand and lately (2008) the Isle of Man (the first Prison in Europe to impose such a ban).

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