In years gone by, smoking was far more common in prisons than in the general population. For every person smoking outside, four people were smoking behind bars. However, 2017 saw a sea-change in this, as smoking was banned throughout all closed English and Welsh prisons. This was done because of continued complaints from non-smoking prisoners and staff, who were concerned about the effects of inhaling second-hand smoke.
So, it should come as no surprise to learn that vaping has increased. This has occurred following riots when the ban was implemented. Smokers were not happy; it was even suggested some were trying to make their own cigarettes using nicotine patches. Whatever the truth of that idea may be, the prison service in Wales decided to run a scheme where electronic cigarettes and refills were made available for prisoners to purchase. It is now estimated that around 33,000 prisoners have made the switch from smoking to vaping.
The trial was successful, leading to the scheme being expanded throughout other prisons throughout England and Wales. While prisons in Scotland have not yet banned smoking, they will do by the end of this year. In contrast to the ban in England and Wales, where vaping was only provided as an alternative following the riots, Scottish prisons will introduce vaping supplies from next month.
It would be interesting to see if the prisoners using vape supplies will continue to do so upon release, or whether they only switched because they had to. The riots show how difficult it is to quit smoking with no form of support. Vaping has been proven time and again to be the best option. It is a far safer method of getting that nicotine fix without being exposed to the dangers of cigarette smoke, tar, and other contaminants.
Prisoners are also understood to be offered support if they wish to quit smoking, with nicotine replacement therapy another option. With one estimate putting the percentage of smokers in UK jails at 80%, it seems a good idea to make vaping supplies easily available to prisoners. One report states around £65,000 a week is being spent on vaping supplies, so it seems to be working well.
What are your thoughts on vaping in prisons? Do you think allowing vaping has been a good move – and will prisoners continue to vape once they are released? Let us know in the comments.