The Henderson County (KY) Jail may have to cut off vaping by inmates if the city commission doesn’t reconsider a recent anti-smoking ordinance. The new law prohibits all e-cigarette use indoors in public places within the city limits.
The jail has been selling e-cigs to inmates — a lot of them. During the last fiscal year, the county has sold more than 16,000 of the cigalike products, for $13 each. The jail will certainly miss the money, but that’s not the biggest problem with the ban.
“It’s used as a leverage tool,” jailer Amy Brady told TV station WFIE. “You can take those away from people that do not obey the rules and cause trouble. Or, you can give them as a reward for those who are trying to help and want to better themselves.”
Brady also told the station that the vapes improve morale among inmates. It reduces the number of inmate conflicts too.
This has been going on for a few years. For prison personnel, e-cigs are an easy call. What could be better than a low-risk product that keeps agitated smokers at least somewhat mollified, and also brings in revenue for the prison? Taking cigarettes away from smoking-dependent captives always seemed like a ridiculous thing. This gives them something to hang onto.
There are manufacturers that produce e-cigs specifically designed for prison use. They’re typically cigalikes, and each unit has a serial number, so jailers can track them in the prison. Inmates usually have to turn one in before they can get another one.
There have been some issues, with corrupt jail administrators sometimes involved in backdoor deals to supply the prisons, and others actually invested in the companies making the products. But, for the most part, it’s a good idea. Prison staff report that the e-cigs keep many of the smokers happier and less prone to unpredictable behavior.
Of course, tobacco control zealots don’t like it one little bit. At least one study has been done on the topic, and the authors — including Stanford’s truly insufferable Judith Prochaska — predictably complain that prisons are taking the easy way out by allowing inmates to vape. I’m sure that’s because they’re truly concerned with the health of the prisoners — or maybe not.
“Encouragingly, recent evidence indicates that low-cost, behavioral counseling focused on identifying triggers and developing coping skills reduced relapse to smoking amongst newly released felons,” wrote Prochaska and crew. “Preventing and treating tobacco use is a National Commission of Correctional Health standard. With the advent of ‘vaping’, however, this policy has become outdated, focusing only on ‘tobacco.’ From a cost-benefit perspective, treating nicotine addiction offers broad, longer-term benefits with few risks relative to the immediate fiscal gains and potential dangers and misuse of e-cigarettes.”
What kind of miserable, controlling people would not only insist that smokers in prison be denied cigarettes, but also safer nicotine substitutes? Tobacco control extremists, that’s who.