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Harm reduction or a catalyst for new harms? The impact of smoke-free prison policy on prisoners and the prison regime

Gray, Paul ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-1546-9333 and Ralphs, Rob ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8359-2598 (2021) Harm reduction or a catalyst for new harms? The impact of smoke-free prison policy on prisoners and the prison regime. Prison Service Journal (254). pp. 39-45. ISSN 0300-3558

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A 2015 Public Health England report identified that the prevalence of smoking among prisoners at the time was roughly four times that of the general population, thereby exposing prison staff, non-smoking prisoners, and visitors to the negative health consequences of second-hand smoke (SHS)1. Around the same time, a Ministry of Justice study of SHS in English prisons recommended that NOMS should give consideration to implementing measures for the reduction or elimination of SHS across the prison estate2. These concerns around SHS were further supported by a 2016 study of air quality in four English prisons3. When compared to non-smoking areas, the levels of airborne particulate matter (a measure of SHS) in smoking areas was between two and nine times higher than the World Health Organisation’s recommended daily average. With these studies in mind, it was perhaps inevitable that in 2017 the Ministry of Justice began rolling out a smoke-free prison policy (hereafter referred to as the smoking ban) across England and Wales. By the end of 2017, half of the prisons in England and Wales had implemented the ban, and by the middle of 2018, the ban had been introduced across all prisons. This article presents the findings from the first piece of qualitative research to be undertaken following the implementation of the smoking ban in England and Wales. It investigates the impact of the ban on prisoners’ smoking practices, the changes to the tobacco and synthetic cannabinoid markets, and the implications of these changes for prisoner health and the wider prison regime.

Impact and Reach


Activity Overview
6 month trend
6 month trend

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