In 2014, some prisons in the UK began experimenting with e-cigarettes in their shops. This is part of an ongoing effort to lead to a complete ban on smoking in prisons.

The Prison Service declared its commitment to the smoke ban in prisons across England and Wales. This is an attempt to lower the health risk within the prison environment.

However, it should be noted that this is at a preliminary stage and everything currently being used is a trial. Disposable electronic cigarettes are suitable for use in prisons due to the materials they are made of. Products sold in prison shops must conform to strict criteria that are designed to limit the prisoner’s access to tools.

Many inmates and prison officers have also taken legal actions against the effects of passive smoking in prison. Electronic cigarette smoke is completely harmless while traditional cigarette smoke is harmful and can cause second hand smoking. It is estimated that nearly 80% of prisoners are currently smokers. Although banned in most areas of the prison and exercise yard, inmates can smoke in their rooms.

In 2007, the Prison Officers’ Association (POA) started a campaign targeting the ban of smoking in all UK prisons. This campaign is focused on both the prison staff and the inmates who’re unwillingly second hand smoking. This problem is exacerbated smoking is almost exclusively confined to prisoner’s cells.

This campaign was a reaction to the ban on smoking in workplaces and enclosed public areas. This particular ban was created to help protect people from the risks of passive smoking. A ban in prison would be more problematic as prison cells are still classified as “domestic premises” for the prisoners. This means personal space and the prisoner should be allowed to practice an extent of freedom as it’s their “home”.

The Prison Governors Association also released this statement:

“Anything that could protect not only staff but other prisoners and visitors from second hand smoke inhalation is obviously welcomed.”

If the trial is successful, it could be a big step to eradicating the worldwide public health menace that is plaguing our population. Prisons have the highest smoker density per 100 people so it could be an influential infrastructure to target in the fight against smoking. It would also make prisons a healthier place and could play a fundamental role in changing prisoners’ lives.