UK & World News
Prison Smoking Ban 'Could Be Very Risky'
Inmates could soon be banned from smoking inside prisons in England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice has said.
A pilot scheme which will monitor how prisoners react to the move is being planned by the Government but sites have not yet been chosen.
A spokesman for the MoJ said: "We are considering banning smoking across the prison estate and as part of this are looking at possible sites as early adopters."
The pilot scheme is expected to launch in the South West in the spring of next year and if successful the ban would be rolled out across all prisons within 12 months, The Times has reported.
But there are fears the ban could cause disruption in prisons, with around 80% of inmates in England and Wales believed to smoke, according to the NHS.
Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said it would be "very risky" to implement a blanket ban with no extra support for prisoners.
"You're putting extra pressure on a system that's already under pressure," she said.
Ms Lyon says many prisoners use smoking to help "survive" their sentence.
She says cuts to staffing and resources are already putting added strain on the prison system, and causing "increasing unrest" amongst inmates.
She does not oppose the proposed ban, but said alternate activities to smoking must be offered.
"If the substitute for smoking were more time with staff, more time outside of your cell, more purposeful activity, more skills training that would be a very different picture," she said.
Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers' Association, told The Times that introducing the ban would be difficult.
"There is no pretending otherwise," he said.
"It could cause disturbances but they have done it successfully in Canada and in young offender institutions in England and Wales."
He added: "We welcome this move. It is our policy to have smoke-free prisons for our members.
"We will work with the ministry to make sure it works effectively."
Mr Gillan said that without a smoking ban the Prison Service risked legal action from a non-smoker claiming to suffer from the effects of passive smoking.