At a Health and Sport Committee meeting at the Scottish Parliament in 2014, ministers were told about the huge potential benefit vaping could offer in helping to deliver reduced harm. The politicians listened to accounts of pioneering organisations in using ecigs to deliver smoke-free policies in hospitals, mental health institutions and Guernsey Prison.
Professor John Britton told them: “We know a great deal about the long-term effects of nicotine from studies of oral tobacco in Scandinavia. Over decades of use we know a lot about the risk potential or the pattern of risk in lifetime users as opposed to non-lifetime users. And while I can’t say there is no risk, the risk is very, very low.”
He said quitting smoking is like being in a nightclub when the fire breaks out – the exit isn’t important as long as it leads out.
Eventually the brave decision was taken to allow vaping to play a part in delivering a smoke-free environment in Scottish prisons. Small trials were conducted, and 33,000+ prisoners were spending £65,000 per week on devices and refill pods.
Chief Executive Colin McConnell said: “I fully understand how difficult it will be for many in our care to give up smoking - that is why we are committed to working alongside our partners in the NHS to provide every support possible to assist them."
Fraser Munro, governor of Perth Prison, welcomed the free vape kit initiative: “It is needed in this day and age. Introducing e-cigarettes is not about appeasement – it is part of a package of measures that are aimed at stopping people smoking so it will be beneficial. I believe it is the right thing to do.”
Linda de Caestecker said the response across the prison service had been fantastic: "Eight months on we can look back and hail this as a major public health success.”
"This was one of the best examples of partnership working in public health with NHSGGC, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prisons Service working well together with very effective communication between three agencies.”
"Providing a smoke-free prison environment for people to live, work and visit will undoubtedly improve health and change smoking behaviour - not only in prison but also as people return to the community."