Inmates fume at plans to ban smoking in prison

Plan linked to potential legal action by staff and inmates over effects of passive smoking

Crime Correspondent

Locked up for up to 23 hours a day, the few moments of light relief on offer for thousands of inmates residing at Her Majesty’s Pleasure are set to dwindle further. After pubs, trains and public places, the prison estate for England and Wales is set to introduce a smoking ban – sparking warnings from former prisoners about a possible backlash.

Following the lead of Canadian jails and young offender institutions, prisons are set to become smoke-free zones because of concerns of legal action from non-smokers claiming to suffer the effects of passive smoking, according to the prison officers’ union.

Labour said yesterday that the plan to run a pilot at a number of undisclosed sites was an “odd priority” after claiming that inspection reports had warned that prisons were increasingly stretched anyway. The scheme is expected to be launched in the spring of next year and if successful could be rolled out across all prisons within 12 months, according to reports.

However, the scheme was met with opposition by some groups and former inmates who warned of disturbances with the withdrawal of tobacco and replacement with nicotine patches. Around 80 per cent of inmates in England and Wales are believed to smoke.

“One inmate told me: ‘I was on 23-hour bang up for six months and my cigarettes were my only comfort’,” said Mark Johnson, a former prison inmate who runs User Voice to prevent r-offending. “He said there’s going to be a lot of trouble.”

Former inmates said it was hard to exaggerate the importance of smoking and tobacco inside prison, which is used as a currency. “It was vital for getting through the long weekends of bang up,” one former offender told The Independent.

“You could only get it once a week, so if you had half an ounce, you’d break it and give someone a quarter [ounce] and get a half ounce the next week.

“Double bubble: that was how it worked, just like the drug trade.”

The smoking ban introduced in England in 2007 restricted smoking in prisons but allowed inmates to light up in their cells. Figures obtained by the Howard League for Penal Reform revealed earlier this month that nearly a quarter of all prisoners were expected to share a cell meant for one person, increasing the prospects of disputes over smoky cells.

The shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan said: “Recent prison inspection reports show they are increasingly stretched on a daily basis battling simply to stop disturbances.

“A smoking ban in prisons without planning and resources seems an odd priority at a time when David Cameron’s out-of-touch government has failed to deliver a so called ‘rehabilitation revolution’.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We are considering banning smoking across the prison estate and as part of this are looking at possible sites as early adopters.”

Smoked out: The pain of withdrawal

Prisoners who are forced to stop smoking will find nicotine withdrawal symptoms “a challenge” but may come to appreciate the long-term benefits of quitting, health experts have said.

Feelings of restlessness, irritability and frustration are likely to be exacerbated by the prison environment. However, Professor John Britton, chair of the Royal College of Physicians tobacco advisory group, said that where smoking bans in prisons had been tried – such as in New Zealand, Guernsey and the Isle of Man – they had been successful.

“This is a big opportunity to improve the health of a very vulnerable group with very high levels of nicotine addiction, to do something positive for them and to help alleviate the poverty that most people are in before they are sent to prison and often return to when they leave,” he said.             

Charlie Cooper

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
Voices
Sweet tweet: Victoria Beckham’s selfie, taken on her 40th birthday on Thursday
voices... and her career-long attack on the absurd criteria by which we define our 'betters', by Ellen E Jones
Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Sampling wine in Turin
food + drink...and abstaining may be worse than drinking too much, says scientist
Arts & Entertainment
Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin has been working on the novels since the mid-Nineties
books
News
Easter a dangerous time for dogs
these are the new ones. Old ones are below them... news
News
Brand said he
people
Voices
Actor Zac Efron
voicesTopless men? It's as bad as Page 3, says Howard Jacobson
Sport
Roger Federer celebrates his victory over Novak Djokovic in the Monte Carlo Masters
sport
Arts & Entertainment
The monster rears its head as it roars into the sky
film
Voices
For the Love of God (2007) The diamond-encrusted skull that divided the art world failed to sell for
its $100m asking price. It was eventually bought by a consortium
which included the artist himself.
voicesYou can shove it, Mr Webb – I'll be having fun until the day I die, says Janet Street-Porter
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit