Why fund smoking cessation programmes in prisons?

BMJ 2005; 330 doi: (Published 07 April 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;330:852
  1. Niyi Awofeso, public health surveillance officer (
  1. Sydney, Australia

    Over the past decade, most prison authorities in Western countries have responded to the public health, litigation, and security problems posed by high prevalence of tobacco use among prisoners, primarily through prohibition and severely restrictive policies. Although Britain recently funded nicotine replacement pharmacotherapy and smoking cessation programmes to assist prisoners willing to quit, such programmes to complement restrictive policies are rare in American and Australian prisons. The main argument against the funding of these complementary smoking cessation programmes by custodial authorities is cost. I would argue that, for a number of reasons, the benefits of funding smoking cessation programmes for inmates willing to quit surpass the costs of implementation.

    Funding of smoking cessation programmes for inmates that require such services is by itself a strong counterargument to the allegedly punitive nature of tobacco control policies in prison settings, such as prohibition. The provision of funded programmes for smoker inmates willing to quit should act as a disincentive to inmates and staff who traffic tobacco ostensibly to “help” smoker prisoners cope with …

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