As city governments and schools across the country move to ban or restrict the use of electronic cigarettes, one place increasingly welcomes the devices: the rural county jail, reports the New York Times. Traditional cigarettes are prohibited from most prisons and jails, but a growing number of sheriffs say they are selling e-cigarettes to inmates. A Nebraska sheriff said e-cigarettes are “selling like hot cakes.”
They are also money-makers. In Macon County, Tenn., the jail buys each e-cigarette for $2.75 and sells it for $10. Each e-cigarette is good for about 500 puffs, the equivalent of about three and a half packs of regular cigarettes. The inmate market has so much potential that Chinese and American manufacturers now produce “jail-safe” e-cigarettes made of plastic instead of metal. Behind the scenes, e-cigarette distributors have been lobbying local officials at state sheriffs' association meetings, and dropping by penitentiaries and leaving behind samples.