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« Politics and propaganda | Main | Government to target smokers and ‘problem’ drinkers »

From prisoners to patients

I was on Reporting Scotland (BBC Scotland) last week discussing the prison smoking ban.

The same day, following the announcement of a smoking ban in La Moye prison, Jersey, I was interviewed for another evening news programme, on ITV News Channel TV.

"No-one has the right to smoke in jail," I said, "but smoking is one of the few pleasures many prisoners have.

"At the very least inmates should be allowed to light up outside, in an exercise yard or designated smoking area."

The prison rulebook was in the news again this week following a report about the contents of an 87-page manual published by HM Prison and Probation Service.

The Sun broke the story on Monday but Richard Littlejohn summed things up nicely in today’s Daily Mail. Headlined These crazy prison rules on alcohol and sex get my goat, Fletcher, it began:

Prisoners will soon be able to drink alcohol and have sex in their cells without facing disciplinary charges, under new guidelines from the Ministry of Justice.

They will also escape punishment for assaulting other inmates and absconding, provided they can come up with a reasonable excuse.

Last night we learned jails are to get photo booths so that prisoners can have snaps taken with their families.

This latest gimmick comes on top of painting walls pink, installing telephones in cells and allowing inmates to stroke pet goats.

To assess the impact, we cross to Slade Prison, where Norman Stanley Fletcher is relaxing on his bunk ...

To be honest, I don't feel strongly either way about allowing prisoners to drink alcohol, have sex or paint their walls pink.

Prison shouldn't be too comfortable. On the other hand, being sent to jail is a big punishment for most people and sometimes, in order to reduce the tensions and boredom that can lead to violence and self harm, governors have to find innovative solutions.

These more liberal rules do however make the smoking ban look even more punitive. If inmates are allowed alcohol, photo booths and cell phones (no pun intended), it seems ridiculous to stop them smoking anywhere on site.

To paraphrase David Hockney, "prisons aren't health clubs" and no-one should be forced to quit smoking, not even prisoners.

Meanwhile I was on BBC Wiltshire this morning talking about hospital smoking bans. I was up against a local man, an ex-smoker of three years, who naturally loved the idea.

Thanks to Public Health England, most hospitals in England are now 'smoke free' in the sense that they have a policy of banning smoking anywhere on site, including car parks.

In practice a lot of people ignore these 'voluntary' bans but what I find so unpleasant is the pettiness that lies behind policies that are intended to force patients to either quit smoking or light up off site, while staff who turn a blind eye or are minded to help are threatened with disciplinary action.

It’s come to something when hospital patients are treated little better than prison inmates.

Welcome to ‘our’ NHS, 2019.

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Reader Comments (3)

Well said Simon. Nye Bevan would be turning in his grave to witness rich middle class political lobbyists getting their way in targetted social groups for social exclusion from hospitals meant for all without fear of prejudice or discrimination. There is no point fighting for their NHS which they make clear is not ours. Antismoker bullies have stolen it.

To think I have paid 51 years of product tax and 40 years of national insurance stolen from me on the false pretences that it would pay for my healthcare when or if I needed it in later life. I am still waiting but my money instead funds healthy hypochondriacs, and their chosen elite patients, who are happy to take smokers' money and deny them all of their rights.

You cannot ban smoking without banning smokers. It is not unreasonable to give smokers shelter. It is spiteful not to.

What is the point of a bullying, selective, NHS ? At least in prison there are ways and means and prisoners will find them. Good luck to those that do.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 13:51 | Unregistered Commenterpat nurse


I cannot believe how folk are getting upset at these petty rulings put out by supposedly health experts, there is nowhere in England where smoking can be banned outside of a hospital building as smoking is still legal to do. All this posturing by these zealots are not mentioning this, therefore any smoker can light up outside and blow all these. Busybodies away. If they bully or attempt to then simply call the police and state that you are being assaulted. It would be nice to see a proactive bunch of smokers all lighting up at the same time and just being legal. I bet these heroes would
not do a thing unless of course they were infirm or ladies on their own. I can seee not far in the future something like this possibly happening. We smokers have been. To polite and amenable for too long.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 17:46 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Kerr

The world has 'turned upside down'. The persecution of smokers based on a combination exaggerated and false representations of risk is the result of the antismoker 'confidence game.' The persecution of smokers must stop!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019 at 18:09 | Unregistered CommenterVinny Gracchus

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