A year after Ohio prisons instituted a smoking ban, taxpayers can expect to shell out a little less for medical care for inmates suffering from emphysema and other respiratory diseases, reports the Columbus Dispatch. Ohio was the 34th state to ban prison smoking. The ban – which includes chewing tobacco and snuff – also gave birth to a lucrative contraband market in state prisons. Tobacco has become as valuable as marijuana, with a single cigarette selling for $10, a pack of cigarettes going for $200 and a can of loose tobacco for $300. An indication of how hot a commodity tobacco has become came last month when officials uncovered a plan for a woman to drop tobacco at the Governor’s residence. Inmates working there planned to smuggle the tobacco back into the Pickaway Correctional Institution. The drop was scuttled by State Highway Patrol officials.
Prison medical personnel said one out of three inmates with serious respiratory ailments, such as emphysema, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, have shown marked improvement in the year since the ban took effect. That led to lower use of inhalant drugs over a three-month period – a savings of $90,000. Respiratory drugs represent six of the top 40 drugs purchased by prisons for inmates, costing about $4 million per year. Ohio prisons chief Ernie Moore said the positive health effect is “the reason we did this in the first place.” There has been an uptick in contraband problems in the 31 state prisons in the past year, Moore said. He added, “In our profession, we are always dealing with contraband. It’s just a different contraband.”