BBC News – Scotland
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has said it intends to make Scotland’s prisons smoke free by next year.
The date was announced at the launch of a major report into prison workers’ exposure to second-hand smoke.
It showed high levels of second-hand smoke in parts of some prisons.
Under the SPS plan, inmates will not be allowed to smoke after November 2018. Smoking is currently allowed within cells and in some outside spaces within prison sites.
A smoking ban has been progressively introduced to England’s prisons and now applies to more than half of them.
The large scale Tobacco in Prison Study (TIPS) was led by the University of Glasgow, with input from the University of Aberdeen.
A survey by the Scottish Prison Service in 2015 found that 72% of those in custody smoked – more than three times the rate of the general population.
Scotland introduced a ban on smoking in enclosed public places in 2006, but it did not apply to prisons.
However, prison rules were amended at the time to restrict smoking to certain areas, such as cells and outdoor recreation spaces.
Claims ‘backed up’
Announcing the new plans for prisons, SPS chief executive Colin McConnell said: “We were both surprised and shocked by the level of exposure to second-hand smoke – not generally but more specifically in some of the hot spots that we have”
“Some particular areas of our prisons are more problematic than others and the different times of the day are more problematic than others”
Staff, visitors and contractors are not permitted to smoke anywhere on SPS property.
A small number of prisons in Scotland have designated a proportion of their residential areas as smoke-free.
The move towards smoke-free prisons is in keeping with the Scottish government’s aim of creating a “tobacco-free generation” by 2034.
SPS, the Scottish government and the NHS have said they will work together to help those in custody stop smoking.
Phil Fairlie, chairman of Prison Officers’ Association Scotland, told BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “Our members have claimed and argued all along, since the smoking ban was introduced, that they are constantly exposed to very high levels of smoking inside prisons.
“This survey, for the first time provides data to back up that claim and the concern that’s been raised by staff throughout those years.
“Higher than 75% of the prison population smoke so it’s a very high number of people who are involved in that activity.”
The proposed ban has been strongly criticised by an organisation promotion smokers’ rights.
Forest said the prison service should show “common sense” and abandon the plan.
Director Simon Clark said: “The risks of second-hand smoke have been greatly exaggerated. Allowing inmates to smoke in their cells poses no significant risk to prison officers.
“On the other hand, banning smoking in prisons risks inflaming a tense and sometimes violent environment.
“Tobacco is an important currency in prison. The removal of one of the few privileges inmates are allowed could also fuel the use of illicit substances.”
But anti-smoking campaigners have backed the ban.
“There is research published this morning which showed the extent to which the is smoke throughout the prison estate,” said ASH Scotland deputy chief executive John Watson.
“That gives us a real reason for changing it and the fact that it’s so common in prisons actually makes that case more urgent”