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Editor—Lincoln et al report the US experience of smoke-free prisons.1 We report experience in Ashfield Young Offenders Institute, a prison in South Gloucestershire which accepts remand and sentenced young people between the ages of 15 and 18. Ashfield introduced a smoke-free policy on 1 February 2005. Smoking is not permitted in the prison by young offenders or staff, and all tobacco related products are banned.
Prison staff were trained by the NHS stop smoking service of South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust to give smoking cessation advice to staff and young offenders. Some staff received support from their general practice. The prison offered to pay for nicotine replacement patches. Staff are able to use patches and nicotine lozenges in the prison.
Staff who continue to smoke have the opportunity to go outside the prison during their breaks, but this option is not available to staff who are working the night shift.
The response from staff has been mixed. Some staff welcomed the change, including some smokers, because it has provided an impetus to stop smoking.
The offenders threatened to cause disruption, but this did not materialise. Minor altercations between young offenders increased about a month after the policy was introduced, which may have been related to many of them experiencing withdrawal from nicotine. In contrast to 27 fires in the first 10 months of the previous year,2 only one minor fire has occurred in the prison since the smoke-free policy was introduced.
Notable differences exist between juvenile and adult prisons with regard to greater challenges in stopping smoking and the length of detention, but our results should encourage other prisons to provide some smoke-free environments for prisoners and staff.
Competing interests: None declared.