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Scottish prison smoking ban debate

Smoking will be outlawed in all Scottish prisons from Friday.

The Scottish Sun asked me to contribute 300 words on the subject for today’s edition. It's not online but I wrote:

Five months ago Rory Stewart, the former prisons minister in England, tweeted: ‘Delighted to confirm that we have just achieved one hundred per cent smoke free prisons.’ “We were ahead of the Scots and we’ve done it,” he told a Commons committee.

Unaware, it seems, of a succession of reports linking the smoking ban with increasing violence and illegal drug use in prisons, Stewart’s jubilation seemed misplaced. Incidents of self-harm and assaults in prisons are a serious problem and the use of illicit drugs is rife, yet here was a minister celebrating the prohibition of a legal product.

According to the Scottish Prison Service the aim is to protect staff and inmates from exposure to second hand smoke. The potential harm has been exaggerated but allowing prisoners to light up outside, in an exercise yard or smoking area, doesn’t put anyone else’s health at risk. In contrast, banning smoking completely could inflame a tense or volatile environment.

Plans to give inmates vaping kits after prisons in Scotland go 'smoke free' are well-meaning but questionable. Vaping may satisfy some prisoners but for many e-cigarettes are still no substitute for tobacco. Why not offer e-cigarettes to those who want to quit, and allow them to vape in their cells, but permit designated smoking areas for those who don’t?

Another proposal is to give prisoners in Scottish jails jigsaws and colouring books to wean them off cigarettes. If the plan is to treat inmates like children, don't be surprised if they behave like children.

Smoking is one of the few pleasures many prisoners have. That's why tobacco is such an important currency in prison. No-one has the right to smoke in jail but banning smoking completely could have serious unintended consequences including increasing violence and illicit drug use. Is that a legacy the Scottish government is willing to risk?

My contribution was one half of a head-to-head debate with Deborah Arnott, CEO of ASH (London), who has been billed as ‘ASH Scotland chief’.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall when Sheila Duffy, chief exec of ASH Scotland, sees that!

Anyway, Deborah has pooh-poohed the suggestion that banning smoking in prisons can fuel violence and the use of illegal drugs.

According to her, ‘After Scottish prisons go smoke-free, everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about.’

The tobacco control industry will deny there is a link between smoking bans and unrest or increasing use of drugs in prisons, but there have been enough reports - both formal and anecdotal - that suggest otherwise.

Here are a few:

Prison smoking ban 'fuelling HMP Leicester violence'
BBC News, May 31, 2018

Prisoners trashed jail in NINE HOUR riot after smoking ban was introduced
Daily Star, March 4, 2018

HMP Haverigg prison riot 'linked to smoking ban'
BBC News, February 27, 2018

Smoking ban and short staffing 'sparked prison riot'
BBC News, January 30, 2018

I could go on.

Meanwhile the Mirror also reported (January 27, 2018):

The smoking ban in prisons has made air quality WORSE, a report has revealed.

The findings heap embarrassment on prison chiefs, who have trumpeted the health benefits of outlawing cigs at all the jails in England and Wales.

So, no, I don’t think anyone should be complacent about the impact of the prison smoking ban – not even Deborah Arnott whose membership of the mysterious 'smoke free prisons project board' was discussed here exactly one year ago.

See also: No evidence that prison smoking bans lead to riots? Bullshit!

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Reader Comments (6)

The ONS has recently produced a nice page on the demise of the British pub. No mention of the smoking ban naturally only the recession. Clearly, the ONS were not drinking in the same pubs as me when 1 in 10 people were unemployed in the eighties. Smoking bans don't close pubs and don't cause prison unrest, black is white, up is down.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 11:23 | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Deborah Arnott is a liar. It is criminal that this bully still gets the oxygen of publicity given the hate campaign her organisation is promoting against legitimate consumers.

Next time her smokerphobic demands cause riots in prison, send her in to sort it out.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 12:00 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

As I have said before, the powers that be do not care about the people who matter, it will be the prison officers who will suffer because of this ban, the prisoners will find a way to beat this ban as all human nature does when stopped from doing something legal. The authorities are doing this because they can, it is just a starter for not a lot of people care about people in prison, when this dies down, if there are no deaths or riots I will be very surprised. Then wait until the authorities start making it illegal to be overweight or drink more than one pint of beer inside, then it will creep on from there

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 12:26 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

I have just written this on Mr Snowdon's blog...

Last Spring, I threatened Rory Stewart via my own MP with legal action over the smoking ban. To be fair, he replied to both my letters, but that is where the "to be fair" bit ends. I forget exactly what he said, but along the lines of having been threatened with legal action before and it doesn't get anywhere.

As the Asher's Bakery case showed, persistence can defeat the politically correct system, such as, in their case, the local court, the N.I. Court of Appeal and Northern Ireland's Equality Commission.

The Christian Institute won't be funding legal action to help smokers get justice, but they and their like have won many court cases to defend freedom of speech, etc.

What we need is a concerted effort to raise money to go to court.

We can use many routes, for example, I told Mr Stewart that he was acting in flagrant violation of Article 16 of the United Nations Convention against Torture concerning the ban on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

It is time to get organised.

P.S. Perhaps Forest could be involved?

P.P.S. Sufficient funds could possibly be raised via a mailshot to pub landlords who could put up a poster to alert their punters. If there's any fight left in people these days, that is! But just a small donation from 1% of pub and club-goers should get things done.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 16:25 | Unregistered CommenterStewart Cowan

Arnott is wrong in saying "you do not have a right to smoke." We do have that right because a cigarette is a legal product and we have a right to use it in the way it was intended. It is like saying you have no right to drink alcohol, no right to eat a sugar donut, and no right to drive a car.

You are right in saying prisoners don't have a right to smoke in jail. The use of legal products can be restricted, such as bans on buying or consuming alcohol, but we should be employing choice and tolerance when dealing with those things that law allows us to use.

Deborah, and her professional ilk, whine, lie, and manipulate continually to try and get their intolerant "smoke free world" so getting tobacco registered as an illegal product and smokers criminalised is on the list - after forcing the identity upon us to enable more effective targeting in the hate and dehumanisation campaign they designed for us.

The public must understand that smoking is the gatekeeper to liberty that protects all the principles we are supposed to hold dear and smokers are the guardians of all the free choices we should be allowed to make in civilised societies.

Choice, tolerance, compassion, are all better alternatives to blanket intolerant smoking bans founded on deliberate misrepresentations from the likes of Debs Arnott. She is pushing a political agenda without thought or care of the vulnerable she is pushing around because she can.

I wonder what legal product prisoners will be denied the right to use next? TVs? Food? Drink? They have no right to use those legal products in jail and if we rationed them, would anyone outside care?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 17:47 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse

Smoking bans in prison do infect lead to violence as rightly noted in your response above. Beyond that the bulk of evidence about second hand smoke disputes the claims made by ASH. ASH is an antismoker pressure group that misuses public funds to fuel their agenda. Ms Arnott herself know the ASH claims are dubious--she after all called the imposition of smoking bans a 'confidence trick.' Once again they are replaying the same old confidence trick. ASH and their lies must be exposed!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018 at 21:31 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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