The health legislation in 2006 that banned smoking from all enclosed public areas and workplaces was wrongly understood by the justice secretary, who argued that it did not mean that the Crown had to enforce the ban in state prisons. However, a judge has newly ruled that this ban needs to be expanded to include state prisons as well.
Currently, prisoners are not allowed to smoke in enclosed common areas, but are still able to smoke in their cells, since this technically was not counted as an enclosed public space. However, for many prisoners who do not smoke, the issue of second hand smoke is a huge problem. One inmate at HMP Wymott in Lancashire, suffers from health problems, which were made much worse by second hand smoke. He also wanted an NHS helpline installed, where inmates could call in to report on other inmates and members of staff who were violating the smoking ban. One correctional officer referred to this helpline as ‘the grass line’.
However, since more than 80% of prisoners smoke, it is an extremely difficult rule to enforce. When tobacco is taken away from the prisoners, it results an in increase of aggression and unrest, with most of them suffering from severe nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Since tobacco is also used as a form of currency in prisons, it would have a huge impact on the way in the prison hierarchy and the way in which the prison is able to properly function.