28 June 2010
Corrections today says that a total smoking ban will be implemented for all prisoners from Friday 1 July 2011.
"The wellbeing of staff is a priority for the Department. In order to be a responsible employer and a responsible Government Department tasked with housing prisoners, a total ban for prisoners far outweighs the potential harm of continuing with the current policy," says Corrections Chief Executive Barry Matthews.
"Prisoners have triple the smoking rate of the community. According to a 2005 survey 67.1% of the prison population smoke, this equates to around 5,837 individuals. The high level of smoking and resulting second-hand smoke in prisons poses a serious health risk to prison staff and prisoners. By implementing the ban we are acting to address these issues in a responsible way."
"This product kills one in every two of it’s users and we can’t allow the tobacco industry to continue to treat prisoners as a captive audience," comments Paula Snowden, Chief Executive of The Quit Group.
"Arguably, prison potentially offers an ideal opportunity to quit smoking – in a restricted environment people have the opportunity to quit without the daily exposure to the typical retail strategies and temptations of the industry. Quitting is easy – it’s staying quit that’s hard. We’re here to help with that, and we look forward to supporting the staff of New Zealand prisons and the prisoners themselves as tobacco and the harm it causes are removed from our prisons."
"Announcing the change now gives us a year to prepare and ensure that everyone affected by the change is well informed . The focus will be on giving prisoners and staff the opportunity, support and motivation to attempt to stop, or reduce their smoking before the total ban is implemented. While staff who smoke will be encouraged to quit, they will still be able to smoke in clearly designated areas on site away from prisoners," says Mr Matthews.
"Undeniably, this change will be a significant challenge for many prisoners. The Department will be working closely with staff, unions and prisoners to ensure the best possible outcome. We are also working with the Ministry of Health and the Quit Group who will be helping us support the take up of smoking cessation. We will also apply the lessons learned from international and New Zealand experiences of similar workplaces who have already adopted this policy.”
The total prisoner smoking ban was decided after a review of the current smoking policy that allows prisoners, with the exception of youth unit prisoners, to smoke in their cells and in designated areas.
"The statistics are too alarming to ignore, especially when you also consider that 5,000 people die every year from smoking related illness, not to mention the estimated 350 that die from second had smoke. Studies of air-quality in US prisons have shown that staff and prisoners can be exposed to levels of second-hand smoke 12 times higher than in the home of an indoor smoker. If we can make even a small reduction to these statistics by implementing this policy and supporting smoking cessation in our prisons we have an obligation to do so."
The total prisoner smoking ban will result in related positive outcomes including a reduction in prisoners misusing lighters or matches to cause vandalism or disturbances and the use of tobacco as a currency that leads to ‘standovers’ and violence. Significantly the ban will also contribute to a reduction in taxpayer money being spent on health services on smoking related illnesses of prisoners.
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