Smoking to be banned in Scottish prisons by end of 2018

Written by Jenni Davidson on 17 July 2017 in News

The ban comes as a new report found Scottish prison officers are exposed to second hand smoke

Smoking - Image credit: Fotolia

Smoking is to be banned in Scottish prisons by the end of 2018, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has announced.

The sale of tobacco in prisons will stop in 2018 and the SPS will then amend prison rules to make smoking in Scotland’s prisons illegal.

Prisoners will be offered support to give up smoking.

Prisons are exempt from the ban on smoking in an enclosed space, and a 2015 SPS survey found that 72 per cent of prisoners smoke, more than three times the 20 per cent average in the population at large.


The commitment comes as a new report was launched today into the effects of second hand smoke on prison officers, the most comprehensive study in the world of prison workers’ exposure to second-hand smoke.

The Tobacco in Prisons Study (TIPS) was led by the University of Glasgow, with input on second hand smoke measurement provided by the University of Aberdeen.

While the report found a high degree of variability in levels of exposure, it noted that in some circumstances concentrations were “comparable to those measured in bars in Scotland prior to smoke-free legislation in 2006”.

Speaking at the launch of the report into second-hand tobacco smoke, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service Colin McConnell said: “This report is a call to action. It is not acceptable that those in our care and those who work in our prisons should be exposed to second hand smoke.

“We have already put measures in place to reduce this risk by insisting that prisoners close their cell doors when they are smoking, thereby reducing the exposure of that smoke to others.

“We have also modified our daily working practices to reduce this secondary exposure.

“However, the fact remains that the only way to remove this risk is to remove smoking from our prisons so I am today committing the SPS to achieving a smoke free prison estate by the end of 2018.

“This will be a significant challenge. The percentage of people who smoke in prisons is much higher than the community at large.

“I fully understand how difficult it will be for many in our care to give up smoking – that is why we are committed to working alongside our partners in the NHS to provide every support possible to assist them."

The SPS decision has been backed by the Scottish Government.

Commenting on these proposals, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, said: “Second-hand smoke poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of prisoners, staff and visitors.

“There are very high rates of smoking among those in custody. 

“The staff working in Scotland’s prisons should be afforded the same protection as people working in other professions.

“Last week I launched our Vision and Priorities for Justice, which included a clear commitment to improve health and wellbeing in justice settings.  

“Smoke-free prisons will play an important part in achieving that – benefiting staff and prisoners, as well as the children and families to whom most individuals will return on release.”

The news of the ban was welcomed by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland.

ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy said: “Breathing tobacco smoke is a known health hazard, and this research shows that there are worrying levels of smoke pollution in Scottish prisons.

“Smoke-free prisons are being successfully rolled-out in other parts of Britain so I’m glad that Scotland will not be left behind on this.

“With prisons from Australia to Texas having been smoke-free for years I look forward to the Scottish Prison Service achieving the same standard here.”



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