New laws requiring Victorian prisons to be completely smoke-free from
July 1 will protect the health of staff and prisoners, in a move
supported by Quit Victoria and the Australian Medical Association
Prisoners will no longer be able to purchase tobacco in Victoria's 14
prisons from this week, ahead of a total smoking ban on July 1.
Preparation for the smoking ban in Victorian prisons - including
providing customised quitting support - has been underway for 18 months
to allow staff and prisoners to make the transition.
Smoke-free prisons have been or are due to be introduced in most other
Australian states, and are also the norm in New Zealand, Canada and
parts of the USA. Victoria's youth justice facilities have been
completely smoke-free since November 2013.
Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said second-hand smoke was a
significant issue in prisons, making the complete smoking ban necessary
to protect the health of all staff, prisoners and visitors.
"Prison staff and inmates deserve to be protected from the dangers of second-hand smoke at close quarters,'' Dr White said.
"Many prisoners want to quit but find it difficult in an environment where they are constantly exposed to cigarette smoke.
"Prisoners are far more likely to have serious health problems than the
general population, and smoking only worsens these health inequities."
Currently around 85 per cent of Australian prisoners smoke, compared to about 13 per cent in the general community.1
In addition to the health benefits for prisoners, smoke-free prisons are
likely to reduce the considerable cost to taxpayers of treating the
long-term health effects of smoking.
AMA Victoria President Dr Tony Bartone said banning smoking in Victorian prisons was the right step for prisoners' health.
"The elevated smoking rate among prisoners reflects, to a large extent,
the increased likelihood of inmates being from disadvantaged
socio-economic backgrounds. Indigenous people, drug users and those with
a mental illness are over-represented in the prison system. This ban
will significantly improve the health of prisoners," Dr Bartone said.
Dr White said Quit Victoria had been working closely with Corrections
Victoria to plan for the introduction of smoke-free prisons.
"Quitting can be difficult but experience from other countries and
Australian states tells us that the best approach is to allow a
substantial lead-in time so appropriate support can be provided to
prisoners and staff," Dr White said.
In the lead-up to
July 1, Quit Victoria has run four-week programs designed specifically
for prisoners to help them quit, backed by access to nicotine
replacement therapies and individual support through the Quitline.
Staff members have also received help to quit smoking, and information
on how to support others who are in the process of quitting.
"As of July 1 there will be 5000 fewer smokers in Victoria - and that's
just prisoners. Prison staff can take a lot of credit for their hard
work in preparing for this change, and I particularly congratulate the
many staff members who have taken the opportunity to quit themselves,"
Dr White said.
SMOKEFREE PRISONS IN AUSTRALIA
||Yes, from July 1, 2015
||Yes, from August, 2015
||Yes, since May, 2014
||Yes, to be phased in from March, 2016
||Yes, since July, 2013
||Yes, since January, 2015
Kate Hagan, Quit Victoria Media Manager, 0438 058 406
Felicity Ryan, AMA Victoria Media Officer, 0437 450 506
For help to quit smoking, contact Quitline on 13 7848
1 AIHW 2013. The health of Australia's prisoners 2012. Cat. no. PHE 170. Canberra: AIHW.