NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 26, 2004

The Federal Bureau of Prisons is joining a growing list in enacting a near-total smoking ban on its 105 prisons. Currently, 38 of the 50 states have some form of smoke-free environment for inmates.

Some states have a partial ban. Delaware, for example, allows snuff or chew, while Florida allows smoking in designated areas.

Observers, however, are concerned over the tobacco black market that such laws bring:

  • When Colorado instituted its smoking ban to prisoners in 1999, followed by a smoking ban on prison employees, smuggled cigarettes sold for $10 each.
  • Ohio has enacted a partial ban on smoking; however, the director of the Ohio Department of Corrections is concerned that the ban simply add to the list of other items that are already smuggled, such as money and drugs.
  • Vermont eased smoking restrictions by allowing prisoners to smoke outside in an effort to reduce the smuggling problem; however, prisoners began smoking inside as well.
  • Texas enacted a law last year to beef up its 1994 smoking ban by making it a felony to provide tobacco to inmates.

Moreover, the Federal Bureau of Prisons' ban applies to some 36,000 prison employees as well. Smoking among employees is permitted only if they are alone in guard towers or prison vehicles. The federal correctional employees union tried to fight the ban in 2001 but lost in a binding arbitration agreement.

The Bureau is attempting to ease the change by offering smoking-cessation programs and nicotine patches to prisoners and guards.

Source: Gregg Zoroya, "Smoking Bans Spread to Prisons," USA Today, July 22, 2004.

For text


Browse more articles on Government Issues