Florida prisons ban inmate smoking

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Edwin Buss announced on Monday that Florida's prisons will become tobacco-free within six months in order to cut health-care costs and make prisons safer. Buss stated that the cost to Florida taxpayers for treating inmates for tobacco-related illnesses such as cancer and emphysema neared US$9 million last year alone.

Inmates will be offered help in quitting smoking, possibly including the use of nicotine patches. Gretl Plessinger, Department of Corrections spokeswoman, said that the department is working with the prison canteen vendors to make the patches available for purchase through the canteens. Last year inmates spent $19 million on tobacco products. Although the prison does make money from tobacco sales, Plessinger said, she noted that other states have not lost revenue by banning tobacco. "Inmates spend the money they have on other products like hard candy," she said.

Plessinger said that banning smoking will also make prisons safer: "It will reduce the risk of arson. And lighters can be used to melt plastic objects like toothbrushes into shanks."

Beginning on Sept. 30, cigarettes will be considered contraband, and prisoners caught smoking will face disciplinary proceedings with possible loss of privileges such as visitation rights and loss of gain time.

U.S. Federal prisons already ban smoking as do more than half of U.S. state prisons. Smoking is also prohibited in Florida's public buildings. For Florida prison employees, designated smoking areas will be provided outside the prison walls.