Tobacco and cigarettes have long been both a comfort and a core ex-officio currency for those serving time behind bars, but state governments are now rapidly seeking to extinguish the trade and consumption of the carcinogenic products in an effort to cut smoking related illnesses.
Queensland’s infamously tough gaols have just declared themselves to be the latest to go smoke-free, with bans on lighting-up the legal substance now coming into force, a move less than popular with those being provide with secure accommodation by the state.
“We made a commitment to Queenslanders that we would revitalise frontline services and this will literally be a breath of fresh air for not only Corrective Services staff and prisoners, but all Queenslanders,” the state’s Attorney-General and Minister for Justice, Jarrod Bleijie, said.
Given that prisoner comfort is not usually a major priority for governments or their correctional authorities spruiking tough law and order policies, Queensland is staying true to form and selling the cost savings of butting out behind bars as the big benefit.
“This is for the health of our hard working Corrective Services staff as well as prisoners and it will reduce the cost of treating smoking-related health problems to Queensland taxpayers,” Mr Bleijie said.
“A quarter of the State’s prisoners suffer from chronic tobacco-related illnesses and the doctor’s bill is picked up by Queenslanders.”
Queensland’s prisoners may indeed soon be healthier, but could also be angrier too.
As taking away tobacco from hundreds of long-term addicts who are locked-up in a confined space is never without some risk, prison authorities and the Attorney General have been actively trying to get prisoners to quite the fags ahead of the day the new ban is enforced.
“To their credit, many prisoners had already embraced the change before today’s final butt out,” Mr Bleijie said.
“Correctional centres have general had 50 to 70 per cent of identified smoking prisoners undertaking the cessation program with some centres reporting a quitting rate of more than 80 per cent.
That still leaves somewhere between half and 20 per cent of prison smokers probably needing to go cold-turkey – a sobering though for those whose job it is to supervise the a potentially violent criminal population.
Even so, Queensland’s chief law officer claims that analysis of Queensland prisons’ “transition processes and plans” to stub out smoking that was carried out by a “prison manager from the New Zealand Department of Corrections” had found jails were “were well prepared.”
Mr Bleijie said the Queensland ban on smoking in custody followed “successful smoke-free rollouts in other jurisdictions’ prisons, including New Zealand and the Northern Territory.”
He noted that “New South Wales, Victoria and the United Kingdom are also in the process of making their correctional facilities smoke free.”
Whether the move to ban smoking in jails will finally eliminate the local market for the infamously strong and pungent White Ox brand remains to be seen.