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PM’s Presser – Smokes Ban Won’t Put Guards At Risk

PM’s Presser – Smoking Ban Won’t Put Guards At Risk

Prime Minister John Key says the Government’s partial ban on tobacco in prisons from next year won’t put guards in danger.

Speaking at Monday’s post-Cabinet press conference Key said he believed the ban on inmates’ possession of tobacco was a “step in the right direction” and the Government would help prisoners kick their habit.

Corrections Minister Judith Collins on Monday announced plans to add tobacco to the list of contraband items in prisons, saying it would improve staff and inmates’ health and reduce their exposure to secondhand smoke.

But the guards’ union said its members feared the policy was a publicity stunt and would be rushed through.

Corrections Association spokesperson Bevan Hanlon told Radio New Zealand he had already heard of prisoners threatening to “bash” smokers on staff, who would still be allowed to smoke onsite in designated areas.

The government also needed to look at how it would enforce the ban, he said.

But Key said he did not think the policy would make it harder for prison staff to do their jobs.

“Obviously there’s a risk that some prisoners get grizzly about that - they’re probably fairly grizzly that they’re in prison as well, so there’s a number of factors that guards have to deal with.

“I think [if] someone who’s going to be volatile in prison, it’s going to be more than probably just giving up cigarettes that’s going to agitate them.”

Key said there were a number of other risks associated with cigarettes in prisons such as their use in barter systems and the safety risk posed by lighters.

Key acknowledged the difficulty in banning even illegal drugs from prisons and said tobacco may always be an undercover drug.

It would be difficult to stamp out, but the bulk of cigarette use would disappear once there was a smoking ban, he said.


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