Select Committee on Health Written Evidence

Memorandum by the Prison Service (SP 47)


  This Memorandum considers how the Prison Service, in the light of Choosing Health and impending legislation, can best contribute to the Government's commitment to creating a smoke free environment in workplaces and public places.


    —  the commitments (outlined initially in the Choosing Health White Paper and General Election manifesto) to introduce legislation to ensure that enclosed public places and workplaces are smoke-free. This in the context of the overall government strategy to tackle death and disease caused by tobacco smoke, and to be in place by end of 2007.

    —  That consultation between DH and the Prison Service is mentioned in Choosing Health, along with a recognition that some establishments such as prisons require special provisions. (Indeed some initial contact has been made, and further consultation will take place soon, probably before the end of the year.)


    —  Prisons have developed their own "no smoking" policies covering staff and prisoners in line with current health and safety advice, and taking into account the type of establishment it is, its population and the special needs of that population. Up to this point the overall national steer from HMPS/DH has been to encourage local initiatives to reduce/control smoking.


    —  Currently 80% of prisoners smoke, and many staff also smoke.

    —  Wetherby and Ashfield prisons for Juveniles have successfully gone totally smoke free this year.

    —  Wherever possible prisoners should not be required to share accommodation with a smoker if they so request.

    —  However with the current situation of overcrowding there are inevitable pressures which currently can lead to smokers and non-smokers sharing accommodation.

    —  Prisoners should only smoke in their cells or where appropriate outside of buildings, and not in an other "public areas", for example on landings or in the visits area or in a class room.

    —  Prison Rules set out the provisions for smoking by prisoners in prisons:

—  Prison Rule 25(2) says that no prisoner shall be allowed to smoke or have any tobacco except as a privilege (for example, smoking can be forfeited as a disciplinary punishment for up to 42 days.)

—  YOI Rule 21(2) is similar. Sentenced young offenders in YOIs are not to have any tobacco, except in accordance with directions of the Secretary of State. These directions at present allow YOI governors in consultation with their Area Managers to specify at what times and places smoking may be allowed, except in establishments or parts of establishments for juveniles.

—  In juvenile establishments and juvenile units, neither smoking nor possession of tobacco is allowed.

    —  Health Promotion: Following a successful smoking cessation programme pilot using Nicoten Replacement Therapy in 2001-02, the Department of Health have invested £1.5 million, over three years, so that the Prison Service could contribute towards the Government's target of 800,000 quitters. Results suggest that quit rates—up to 80% of prisoners smoke—are as good or better than those in the community. Delivery of smoking cessation services involves the local PCT Smoking Cessation Services, working in partnership with prison staff. The "Acquitted" smoking cessation programme is being evaluated further in the North West where all prisons and their PCTs have engaged together to deliver NRT with appropriate support to prisoners (report will be available in December.)

    —  Fire Safety: The issue of supervising the smoking of prisoners who have mental health problems and whose smoking may present a particular fire risk is a matter under consideration by Prison Health.


    —  Local arrangements require staff to be protected from the effects of passive smoking. Staff should not smoke except in designated areas eg outside of buildings or in a smoking room.

    —  Local smoking policies for staff may range from a complete ban on smoking in the establishment to the provision of a smoking area or a smoking room. Smoking is not permitted in any office accommodation, including single occupancy offices. In Headquarters a smoking room is provided for staff who wish to smoke.

    —  From a staff perspective most prisons probably already do enough to comply with legislation banning smoking. However staff are still exposed to some of the effects of passive smoke from prisoners who smoke in their cells which staff have, from time to time, to enter to carry out their security duties (this may be considered analogous to someone who works in a bar where smoking is allowed).


    —  Prisons, on the basis that a prison is akin to a residential home, and a cell is "home" to inmates, will be exempt to a certain extent, but only where prisoners are concerned.

    —  Legislation will not exempt prison staff, for whom prison is a place of work. Similar workplace considerations would apply in prisons as elsewhere. The extent to which this could be inspected under any powers provided for in the Bill is one for crown immunity/ consideration.


    —  Up to 90% of prisoners may have some form of mental health problem. Up to 60% are addicted to drugs. Many suffer both and may also be nicotine addicted (some 80% of prisoners smoke). To insist that all prisoners on arrival into prison have their cigarettes withdrawn, may increase stress eg. it might well add to the possibility of their self harming or even killing themselves. Prison staff would therefore want to allow prisoners to be able to continue to smoke in such circumstances, providing it did not cause harm to other prisoners or staff harm, and this should continue at least until the prisoner has been stabilised, and may be offered support with this addiction.

    —  As a direct result of their imprisonment, they are denied access to many of the activities those not in prison would describe as normal and, to remove tobacco could emphasise those deprivations even more and might increase friction within establishments and create problems for control and order.

    —  As some countries have introduced a total ban successfully, there is scope for more work to see if there are lessons for England.


    —  The Prison Service will continue to consult with colleagues in DH about exemptions and the contribution prisons can make to creating smoke-free environments.

    —  A review should take place in the next three months which considers and makes recommendations on how the Prison Service should proceed concerning the creation of "smoke-free environments within prisons".

    —  Without prejudice to such a review, the following are likely options for discussion:

    (a)  As a workplace all prisons to become "smoke-free work places." This will mean no smoking anywhere within the prison buildings.

    (b)  Adult prisoners who smoke to do so in their own cell or while exercising in the open air.

    (c)  Smokers and non-smokers must not be forced to share a cell where smoking takes place.

    (d)  All Juvenile establishments might become totally smoke-free as per the Ashfield and Wetherby models.

    —  After the review and recommendations have been agreed, an implementation plan should be put into place to take agreed action forward locally, as part of the health development plans of the NHS/prison partnerships. "Guidance for smoke-free hospital trusts" (Health Development 2005) could provide a useful role model for the Prison Service in this respect.

November 2005

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