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Smoking ban will make prisons safer

Judith Collins
28 June, 2010
Smoking ban will make prisons safer

A ban on smoking by prisoners will make prisons safer and healthier for staff and prisoners, Corrections Minister Judith Collins said today.

The ban, which is expected to take effect from 1 July 2011, will be preceded by a 12-month campaign to help prisoners kick the habit.

At present smoking in prisons is permitted in cells and designated external areas. Prisoners may also possess lighters and matches.

"The high level of smoking in our prisons poses a serious health risk to staff and prisoners. Studies of air quality in US prisons show that staff and prisoners can be exposed to 12 times the levels of second hand smoke than in the home of an indoor smoker," Ms Collins said.

"Two-thirds of prisoners are smokers and the most common health risk factor reported among prisoners is tobacco smoking. Prisoners have triple the rate of smoking as the rest of the community.

"Quite simply, making prisons smoke-free is a responsible thing to do. It will reduce the health and safety risks to prisoners and staff."

Smoking bans are becoming more common at prisons in the US, Canada and Australia. In Canada prisoners have been unable to smoke in their cells since 2007 following pressure by the prison officers' union.

Ms Collins said having tobacco, matches and lighters in prisons also created risks.

"In prisons tobacco is used as currency, which brings the risk of stand over tactics and violence.

"The policy will mean there is no need for prisoners to have lighters or matches, which will also make prisons safer. Lighters are used to melt toothbrushes and plastic utensils into dangerous weapons.

"Prisoners also light balls of toilet paper to throw at Corrections staff and set fire to Corrections property. Staff shouldn't have to put up with it."

The 12-month campaign to help prisoners quit smoking will include information, education on smoking and smoking cessation support.

As is currently the case for prisoners that want to quit, prisoners will be offered an eight-week course of nicotine replacement patches.

"Many prisoners enter prison with addictions for drugs or alcohol. If we're serious about helping them beat these problems we shouldn't have addictive substances of any kind in our prisons," Ms Collins said.

ENDS

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