A California legislative committee has approved a bill to ban smoking in California prisons. The Los Angeles Times says more than half of the state’s 161,000 inmates smoke. A corrections department official said, “It’s a good idea to get people off cigarettes because it adds to their health problems and it’s an expensive habit.” Assemblyman Tim Leslie said his proposal could save the state as much as $280 million a year in inmate medical costs.
Critics complained that the bill gives no help to inmates in stopping an addictive habit. “There is no nicotine gum, no patch, no smoking cessation program offered here,” said Jim Lindburg of the Friends Committee on Legislation, a Quaker group. Halting cigarette sales at prison canteens would make cigarettes more valuable as contraband. Seventeen states ban smoking in prisons; some reported a dramatic rise in assaults after the prohibition began, the Times says. In California, smoking already is banned at eight of 32 prisons. The prison health-care budget in California jumped from $566 million in 2000 to $975 million this year.