After a smoking ban in British prisons last year led to riots, the Ministry of Justice allowed prisoners to vape. The program has been a big success, with 33,000 inmates now buying e-cigarettes in prison.
The smoking ban caused havoc in the prisons — not surprising considering 80 percent of the U.K.’s prisoners smoked. Violence among inmates and assaults on guards had increased, according to Metro.co.uk. Some smoking prisoners even tried to smoke nicotine patches.
After the unrest, the Ministry of Justice launched a pilot program in Wales allowing vapes to be sold. The prisoners are allowed to buy a limited number of refill cartridges each week, and prisoners say the refills have become prison currency, much as cigarettes used to be.
“We could buy six packs of refills every week but the girls obviously swap and sell each other packs, it is like how burn (tobacco) used to be a currency in jail, some people owed up to 20 packs when I got in there,” one prisoner told the news site.
“All closed prisons in England and Wales are now smoke free reducing the risk of second-hand smoke to prisoners and staff,” a Prison Service spokesperson told Metro. “Prisoners have been given support in quitting smoking if they need it including vapes, e-cigarettes and nicotine replacement therapy.”
“I could not have done my two month sentence without my vape,” one released inmate told Metro. “I saw how bad it was when the smoking ban came in last year and when I had to go back in I was dreading craving a burn. However, I got a vaping machine and it made my sentence a lot easier.”
Some local and county jails in the United States have allowed prisoners to buy e-cigarettes for years, although the programs are generally considered revenue generators for the municipalities rather than a service to the inmates or a harm reduction tool.