The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has joined forces with other public health bodies in backing proposals for smokefree prisons. The CIEH played a leading role in campaigning for the introduction of smokefree legislation.

Since 2007, when the smokefree laws came into force, all premises accommodating juvenile offenders have been required to be smokefree and smoking has only been permitted in adult prisons by prisoners in their own cells. Smoking is not permitted in any other parts of the prison buildings and there is no exemption for prison officers and other staff.

Additionally, the Government has always expected prison governors to exercise local controls to ensure that any prisoners who do not smoke will have their own cell, or be placed in a cell with other non-smokers. This has not always happened.

The CIEH argues that many prison cells are poorly ventilated and heavy smoking can cause a severe build up of smoke which can affect the health of both the prisoners and prison officers and other staff who provide care for them. Some of these will be people who have asthma and other respiratory illnesses, and women who are pregnant. It is not right for smokers to smoke in places that damage other people’s health.

Cigarette by Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons

Cigarette by Tomasz Sienicki via Wikimedia Commons

Commenting, Ian Gray, CIEH Principal Policy Officer, said:

The proposal to introduce smokefree requirements through a series of early adopters of this policy is a sensible way forward and can draw upon the experience of the Isle of Man and the Channel Isles where smokefree prisons already operate successfully.”

I have carried out a survey of the mental health facilities in England and the difficulties encountered there, especially in high security units, are in many ways similar to prison environments. All mental health units have been smokefree for over 5 years and we know of some excellent models which can be shared with the prison service to support their prisoners and staff whilst these necessary changes are introduced.

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