New Zealand introduces smoking ban preventing inmates from lighting up
A controversial ban which prevents prison inmates from smoking was brought into force in prisons in New Zealand on 1st July 2011. The ban saw all tobacco products, as well as lighters and cigarettes, become banned items. It is estimated that prior to the introduction of the ban, over 70% of the country’s prison population smoked – a figure well above the country’s national smoking average of only 20% of the population.
Leading up to the ban, it is reported that the government ‘corrections’ department spent over $200,000 on staff training and signage, $5000 on stop smoking books, and a further $1 million on nicotine replacement therapy for inmates.
Since the ban was introduced, the black market price of tobacco has soared in New Zealand following the smoking ban in the country’s prisons. According to reports, the price of tobacco being bought illegally by inmates has shot up to $500 per 30g of tobacco, an amount which equates to five times the price of the most expensive caviar available in the country. For a single roll-up cigarette, prisoners are reportedly paying up to $15.
During the first two months following the ban, 353 banned items were found in prisons and 31 inmates were caught smoking.
Despite these figures and pre-enforcement criticism from human rights campaigners and the pro-smoking lobbies, who claimed that the ban could lead to an increase in violence in the country’s prisons, the New Zealand government have declared the ban a success so far.