California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a law will ban tobacco use by both inmates and staff at the state’s adult and youth correctional facilities, starting July 1, 2005, the Associated Press reports. Exceptions are made for staff housing when prisoners are not present and at Indian religious ceremonies. The Department of Corrections already bars tobacco use by inmates in 13 of its 32 adult prison facilities. The California Youth Authority has banned tobacco use by its wards since the late 1980s. The bill’s author, Assemblyman Tim Leslie, predicted it would “drastically reduce” prison health care costs. “The governor has put us on the road to saving taxpayer dollars and prisoners’ lives.”
Jim Lindburg of the Friends Committee on Legislation, a Quaker group, said the ban would merely drive tobacco use underground and that a more effective approach would be to encourage prisoners to stop smoking by providing them with nicotine patches and gum. Margot Bach, a spokeswoman for the Department of Corrections, said tobacco and tobacco-related products are probably the “top seller” at prison canteens now and would definitely become “a hot contraband item” when the ban kicks in. Seven other states already have full smoking bans in their prisons and five others have partial bans.