ASH welcomes Government plans for prisons to go smokefree

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Following publication today of air quality data showing significant levels of harmful tobacco smoke in the air in prisons, ASH welcomes the Government’s commitment to making prisons in England and Wales smokefree. [1]

From January 2016 prisons in Wales will become smokefree. This will be followed by a cluster of prisons in the southwest of England which will be early adopters of the smokefree policy. The remainder of the prison estate will subsequently become smokefree although the timing of this is still to be determined.

Commenting on the new policy Deborah Arnott, Chief Executive of health charity ASH said:
“In light of the high levels of tobacco smoke in prisons we are pleased that prisons in England and Wales will finally be going smokefree, something ASH has been calling for since 2005. However, the plan only covers England and Wales, and we urge prison authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland to follow suit. Breathing in secondhand smoke increases the risk of lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory disorders, putting the health of both inmates and staff at risk. Prison authorities have a duty of care to protect the health of both staff and inmates, and prohibiting smoking will substantially improve their health and wellbeing.”
Smokefree policies have been successfully introduced in a number of other jurisdictions, notably in New Zealand, Australia, Canada and federal prisons of the United States. The Isle of Man and Guernsey prisons, as well as all facilities for juvenile offenders, are already smokefree.

The smokefree policy has already been tested and upheld in a Court of Appeal ruling against a legal challenge to the law which banned smoking in psychiatric units. [2] In a case brought on behalf of patients at Rampton high security hospital who claimed that the smoking ban infringed their human rights, the Court of Appeal ruled that there was “no legal right to smoke” under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court also ruled that there was a duty of care to staff and that it was required to take “all reasonable precautions” to protect staff from that risk. Although this judgement concerned a hospital rather than a prison, the same principle as regards exposure to secondhand smoke applies.

Prisoners will be given support to help them quit and those who want to carry on using nicotine will be able to buy electronic cigarettes in prison shops.

Notes and Links:

Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. For more information see:
ASH receives core funding from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[1] Letter from Prisons Minister Andrew Selous to Robert Neill MP, Chairman of the Justice Select Committee regarding smoking in prisons. Ministry of Justice, 29 Sept. 2015

Air quality data available at:

[2] Court of Appeal ruling: R (G) v Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust.   24 July 2009

Commentary on the case: Second challenge to smoke free policy at Rampton hospital fails. July 209

Contact: Deborah Arnott 020 7404 0242 (w) or 07976 935 987 (m)