It has been interesting reading the various responses to the government’s plan to ban smoking in prisons. Most have been quite predictable. The libertarians have scoffed at the idea of a ban. The left-wing blogs have droned on about human rights. Most of the right-wing blogs take the tone that prisoners forfeit their rights upon conviction. The Herald ran an editorial yesterday suggesting that designated smoking areas would be a reasonable compromise. I would be most surprised if prisoners adhered to these areas and I would envisage such a restriction as largely pointless. In another Herald article (and in a post by Bomber at Tumeke), it is suggested that such a ban may cause prison riots on the very flimsy basis that a prison riot in Queensland was partly attributed to a smoking ban. I find this extraordinarily hard to believe.
My personal favorite in the long list of objections to the ban is the argument that the relapse rate is supposedly 97% (this is taken from a US study where the level of smoking cessation treatment is poor). There are two reasons why this is a daft observation. Firstly, the relapse rate in the community is as high as 90% in some studies, so 97% is not as bad as it seems. Secondly, it should be obvious that the “relapse” rate without the ban would be close to 100%. Having three out of every 100 smokers quit is much better than nothing.
Most government buildings have been completely smoke-free for years”
All of this loses sight of the simple fact that most government buildings have been completely smoke-free for years. Is there any particular reason why this should not be true of prisons? You may not come into my home and smoke and the government should feel just as entitled to ban smoking from premises that it controls. You can’t smoke in the public library, why should you be able to smoke in a cell?
Least it be argued that prisoners are not at liberty to leave the building and smoke in the street, it should be pointed out that the same thing, in essence, applies to patients in hospital. You are not allowed to smoke in hospitals and haven’t been able to for several years. It is not easy to exit the hospital complex if you are ill. Hospitals may not be as restrictive as prisons, but the smoking ban is quite rigidly enforced. Patients are offered nicotine patches should they require them. Any prisoner being transferred to a hospital would be forced to stop smoking immediately. If prisoners do indeed get out of control when we prevent them from smoking, then we probably should not admit them to hospital.
The poor, wee fragile things might go mad…