cigarette pack Prison Smoking Bans.
Isle of Man vs Scotland.
cigarette pack

When the smoking bans were introduced (2006 - Scotland, 2007 - England) prisons were excluded because they were considered as "temporary homes", so they fell into the same category as hospices and hotel bedrooms.

In March 2008 the Isle of Man introduced a smoking ban that's much the same as ours, except they chose to include prisons. They didn't bother with great long explanations, they'd just opened their one and only brand new prison in January 2008 and that, together with the risk to prison staff of second hand smoke were considered reasons enough.

Since then I've seen a series of articles claiming it to be a great success. One was quite imaginative; they claimed the level of crime had dropped and implied that potential law-breakers were deterred because they couldn't smoke if jailed! It seemed the height of bad taste to stomp all over their self-admiration by pointing out that a similar phenomenon was observed in some towns in the UK, mainly gratuitous vandalism - and that was because there were thousands of smokers now outside pubs! Being seen by someone who knows you acts as a serious and probably far more immediate disincentive, especially to bored youngsters intent on jazzing up an evening.

However it soon emerged from relatives and ex-inmates that all was far from well inside their prison. People were using tea leaves saturated with nicotine extracted from patches and gum, then rolled in prison issue toilet paper to get an effect that's not that far off real tobacco.

Another thing that didn't get much of a mention were the number of power cuts being caused by inmates trying to light homemade cigarettes by using kettle elements and plug sockets! However the prison authorities have been forced to come clean because things had deteriorated to the point where they had to had to give credible reasons why the law needed to be changed so as to allow prisoners to use e-cigarettes!

Some of the things they've admitted to publicly is there have been more than 800 power cuts in the prison and it'll save them more than £15,000 a year by offering e-cigarettes instead of "nicotine replacement therapies". I have an inkling of what may have been said off the record, like stress levels going through the roof with prison wardens. The rest I suspect is better left unsaid, but whatever it was it must have been convincing because in March 2017 the Manx authorities unanimously approved the use of these devices for a "trial" period of six months (01)!

Now prison smoking bans are coming to Scotland.

There was a lengthy documentary on Barlinnie prison recently shown on television and we learned that prisoners are sealed into their cells at night and are only allowed only 1 hour per day - in shifts - in the open air. Staffing levels are low and routine searches foregone as they attempt to keep control of their charges, which they can only do with the help of some prisoners. It's been stated that something like 80% of inmates smoke in Scottish jails (02), so denying them a means to pass the 23 hours a day they spend cooped up in prison is something many staff members would prefer did not happen.

However this is Scotland and the policy of banning smoking wherever public sector employees are exposed to the risk of injury by second hand smoke marches on. Deal's this; Tobacco Control don't go to prison staff, they're irrelevant, what they do is act through their Unions and scare the willies out of the prison authorities with threats of legal action if any employee develops a smoking related illness.

However there's another, more sinister aspect to this - and it's contained in a very recent report on the Scottish Government's Anti-Smoking Strategy (03). In this they point out that it's not working especially well in the deprived areas of Scotland where about 35% of adults still smoke, versus about 10% in more affluent areas. As a very large percentage of prisoners are from poor and deprived areas, a ban on smoking in prisons is one way toward reaching their self-imposed target of a smoke-free Scotland by 2034.

So the headline of saving prison wardens from second hand smoke is just a convenient cover in the overall scheme of things. But here it's not enough to simply say staff have to be protected, here it needs to be "proven". So "research" had to be conducted - and it's a classic example of spreading taxpayer money both thick and far.

The whole charade was funded by The National Institute for Health Research (04) and that's a branch of the NHS. One beneficiary was Linda Bauld, Professor of Health Policy at Stirling University. It seems her and her "team" - of one other - will receive £74,454 over three years out of a total that comes to £853,045.00 to "Evaluate Graduated Progress towards and Impacts of the Implementation of Indoor Smoke free prison facilities in Scotland" (05).

A chunk was handed over to Dr Peter Craig, Senior Research Fellow at the Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow University (06). He headed up what's claimed to be "the most comprehensive analysis of its kind in the world" by the Scotsman newspaper. However Glasgow University chose to spread things around and engaged the services of Dr. Sean Semple of Aberdeen University (07). Semple more or less subsists on grants to "prove" some anti-smoking initiative or other (08), even discovering that smoking in cars with windows open is just as lethal as when they're closed! Oh and he was part of the follow up to the Scottish smoking ban to prove it was a huge success for the pub industry.

ASH Scotland was of course very much involved in this project. They offer a short-on-detail annual report, with their only admission being that 72% of their funding comes from taxpayers via government handouts and 15% from charities (British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK). Interestingly they admit to 10% of their money coming from "Donations, interest and earned income" (09) - page 11. As deposit interest rates are effectively zero, this is just a catch-all to keep donations anonymous, meaning big pharma.

And what did all this money result in?

Basically a very wishy-washy report that went on about PM2.5 levels being higher than WHO recommended limits, which is utterly facile seeing as every major city in the UK sees PM2.5 levels that are as much as 8 times the WHO limits (10). Glasgow's so bad that it was named and shamed by the WHO last year for its poor air quality (11). And Barlinnie prison just so happens to be slap bang in the middle of Glasgow, not terribly far from the M8 motorway and the A80 trunk road. (One thing about Semple's "research" is he never states background readings, always giving the false impression that all prisons - and every indoor facility he's studied - somehow manages to have pristine air quality inside). So to make it very simple for the press, he and Craig likened certain areas of some prisons at certain times of day has air quality that's comparable to a smokers home! (And Semple's "research" into smokers homes turned out to be so much contrived drivel that I felt compelled to write about it in March 2014 (12)).

The new rules for Scottish prisons come into force in November 2018. One can only hope that e-cigarettes will be allowed. This may explain why there have been so few disturbances in Welsh prisons (where they are allowed), because without e-fags this will never be the success that Bauld, Craig, Semple and Duffy will doubtless try to claim.

Unfortunately their funding runs out in 2019, so much too soon to say so with authority. That'll need a follow up "study" - and more money, doubtless siphoned from the NHS.

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Smoking Scot
September 2017