E-cigarettes have been shown to lessen chaos in prisons where tobacco is banned
Traditional cigarette smoke, as well as secondhand smoke, can be extremely detrimental to your health and well-being. The UK government has been working tirelessly to help people quit smoking and have become huge supporters of vaporizers. England’s federal health agency, Public Health England, published a famous study back in 2015 that found vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. Since that point, the government has essentially fully promoted vaping as a smoking cessation tool and harm reduction tool. They believe vapes will be integral to their ultimate goal of being a smoke-free nation.
Last year the UK made another massive step towards becoming a smoke-free country. It’s been estimated that as much as 80% of inmates in UK prisons smoked. They were permitted to smoke outside and also within the cells of certain jails. That was until last year, when a full ban on smoking in prisons across the nation. While some still allow smoking outside, no one can smoke inside their cells anymore. This ban was passed and rolled out throughout the country in just the last few years. Unfortunately, the transition proved difficult for many inmates, so alternatives were deemed necessary. Many prisons have been permitted too and begun stocking e-cigs along with other nicotine replacement therapies in the commissaries available to prisoners.
A report published by Public Health England clearly indicated their stance on the matter. “Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service have agreed to make the rechargeable vaping devices piloted in Wales available across the whole estate, including within the Long Term High Security and Women’s prisons.” Initially, the Ministry of Justice tested the plan at a facility in Wales. When the ban there was found to be a success they rolled it out into all other prisons in their system. While these programs have only just begun to yield reportable results, the initial feelings from inmates have been very positive.
A recently released inmate of Derbyshire’s Foston Hall Prison said: ”We got all the leaflets about how the ban was going to happen – first the shop would stop selling tobacco, and then the total ban would come in.” When they stopped offering tobacco to the inmates, they instead had the opportunity to buy nicotine replacement therapies, and vaping quickly became the most popular choice. According to that same inmate, “I could not have done my two-month sentence without my vape.”
When they first rolled out the ban and transition, there were a few anticipated problems they had to face. Some desperate inmates were found cutting up patches and attempting to smoke them like cigarettes. There were also riots in several facilities, which is not too surprising when you consider 80% of the population is in withdrawal. But given the time to prepare, the officers were ready, and they got through the initial rough water.
Since the ban was first enacted, it’s estimated that 33,000 prisoners have fully switched to vaporizers. Specially made vapes and refill cartridges are now stocking the shelves of most prison shops, where inmates can buy a six-pack of refill cartridges a week. Another bonus of the switch was removing a significant source of black market deals, cigarettes. Loose cigarettes were once used as currency, but now the inmate’s instead trade flavors of refill cartridges. Overall the Ministry of Justice has felt that the policy change was a success.
While generally, the government isn’t able to force the decision to quit smoking on someone, as it rightfully should be, in this particular case the UK’s Ministry of Justice has effectively done this for tens of thousands of inmates. Putting aside the potential moral implications of such a mindset, ultimately this particular instance has improved the lives and health of both inmates and officers. Given how quickly many inmates have adapted to vaping, many are hopeful that most continue to choose e-cigarettes over combustible cigarettes once they’re released.
This is just another example of why the UK is the world leader when it comes to vaping rights and proper utilization. Instead of shunning vaping as merely an alternative form of tobacco consumption, the official UK policy of supporting the numerous harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits of e-cigarettes is something that ought to be replicated by more world leaders. By legitimizing these extremely effective tools, they’re only bringing their goal of being a smoke-free nation closer to reality.
Is it a good idea for prisons to ban smoking and offer vaping as an alternative? Do you think this policy will have the desired effect and carry over into rehabilitation? How can we further support for the harm reduction and smoking cessation benefits of vaping? Let us know what you think in the comments, and don’t forget to check back here or join our Facebook and Twitter communities for more news and articles.