Prisons are fast becoming smoke-free, to the anguish of nicotine-addicted inmates and guards, reports USA Today. Last week, the Federal Bureau of Prisons started a near-total ban on lighted tobacco in 105 prisons holding 180,000 inmates. At least 38 of 50 state correctional departments report that they are either smoke-free or have partial smoking bans, says the American Correctional Association. “If you can’t quit, you’re just stuck and you’re now a second-class citizen,” complains smoker Aubrey Francis, a federal correctional officer and vice president with the Council of Prison Locals, bargaining representative for the nations’ 36,000 federal prison employees.
Prisons and jails have banned tobacco products out of concerns about the health hazard of secondhand smoke. Court opinions, including a 1993 Supreme Court ruling, have supported inmate claims that being held in a smoke-filled prison may constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In some prisons where smoking has been banned, tobacco has become the black-market favorite, outpacing narcotics in sales. Martin Horn, head of the New York City Department of Correction, which instituted a smoking ban last year for its 13,000 prisoners, said, “It’s ultimately going to be the national norm.”