Paul Black was jailed in 2007 for sexual assault and sought to have the smoking ban implemented as he claimed he was suffering from a number of health complaints as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke. Sympathy was thin on the ground from appeal court judges who overturned the original ruling.
The BBC reported: “Government lawyers had warned that a ‘particularly vigorous’ ban could cause discipline problems and risk the safety of staff and inmates. That warning was echoed by the Prison Governors Association, which is in favour of a ban, but has raised concerns about it potentially leading to instability in jails, given about 80% of inmates currently smoke.”
We reported that, as part of the gradual shift to non-smoking, a prison pilot scheme for electronic cigarettes is underway in the UK, the Isle of Man and Guernsey. “We are looking into whether disposable e-cigarettes are suitable for use in prisons and are currently conducting a trial in” Eastwood Park, Preston and Stocken prisons, said a service spokesperson.
An indication of what could happen had the appeal not been won by the government comes from Australia, renown for its incredibly tough stance on vaping. It suffered the largest ever inmate riot in Victoria last year following a ban on smoking – and this week saw further evidence come to light of how the blinkered approach isn’t working. Despite an increase in provisions including telephone counseling and additional recreational programmes, it has been reported that prisoners have increased the level of illegal cigarette smuggling and demand for illicit drugs is up “to counter a reliance on tobacco.”
A Prison Service spokesman said: “The result of this appeal means we are able to roll out smoke free prisons in a safe and secure way. Our careful approach will ensure staff and prisoners are no longer exposed to second-hand smoke, while not compromising the safety and security of our prisons.”
Guernsey led the way in 2015 with an enlightened approach, Guernsey Prison governor Dave Matthews said: “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. For those who have decided not to (quit smoking), we have allowed them to purchase their own e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in a much safer way than normal tobacco does."
In light of the Public Health England report, the likelihood of electronic cigarettes being adopted across the UK prison service seems to have taken a huge boost with this ruling.