The State Government has started its plan to make Western Australian prisons smoke-free with the first stages of a trial ban on smoking in indoor areas bedded down at Greenough Regional Prison.
Corrective Services Minister Margaret Quirk said the ban was designed to encourage smokers to quit and eliminate staff and prisoner exposure to second-hand smoke.
“This is a big issue for corrective services, with approximately 80 per cent of all prisoners addicted to nicotine,” Ms Quirk said.
“In the short term, staff and prisoners will still be able to smoke outside only in designated areas, but we cannot continue to put the health of others at risk.”
The trial is being implemented in stages to minimise any negative impacts on staff safety and prisoner health, which has been achieved in other jurisdictions.
“Prisoners at Greenough are no longer allowed to smoke in their cells during the day,” the Minister said.
“The number of outdoor areas where smoking is allowed has also been restricted.”
An overnight ban on smoking in cells will be rolled out at Greenough Regional Prison during the 12-month trial. When the trial ends its results will be comprehensively evaluated with a view to rolling out the new anti-smoking regime in all WA prisons.
“Prisoners are locked in their cells from 7pm to 7.30am daily and cannot go outside for a cigarette during this 12-and-a-half-hour period,” Ms Quirk said.
“So there are some practical issues relating to the sudden implementation of this policy which is why it is being introduced in stages.
“For example, there are particular concerns for prisoners with mental health issues, as the sudden withdrawal of nicotine and some nicotine replacement therapies can adversely affect medications used to treat mental health conditions.”
It is the State Government’s intention eventually to make all prisons smoke-free. Other non-smoking initiatives already in place in prisons include:
· several prisons around the State already have smoke-free cells and units and designated outdoor smoking areas;
· reference groups have been established at a number of prisons to plan the implementation of the plan;
· the number of cigarette brands available at all prisons in WA has been dramatically reduced with just two brands of tailor-made cigarettes and two brands of tobacco available at each prison; and
· the provision of help for staff wanting to stop smoking.
Minister's office - (08) 9213 7000