From 6 May, 2014, new legislation came into force in Queensland banning smoking in prisons.
The new laws have been met with heavy resistance by the Queensland Prison Officers Association which is concerned the ban will see an increase in violent outbursts in state gaols.
Similar legislation has already been introduced in the Northern Territory, New Zealand and 11 US states, but Union officials are concerned that introducing such a ban in overcrowded Queensland gaols will only serve to increase tensions among inmates.
Studies show that on average, members of the prison population are five times more likely to smoke than members of the general population, with studies revealing that 70-80% of Queensland’s prison population smokes compared with just 15% of the general population. It has also been revealed that approximately 25% of the prison population suffer from chronic illnesses caused by smoking, for which the tax payer foots the medical bills.
This is largely due to the fact that inmates are often from disadvantaged backgrounds where smoking levels are higher and any attempts to quit are unlikely to last long-term.
Under the new legislation, prison staff and inmates who smoke will have access to nicotine patches and nicotine gum to help them quit but riots have already been reported in some Queensland prisons following the implementation of the ban.
Reports from the Northern Territory where a similar ban was introduced last year indicate that the ban has had pleasing results to date and the Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association reports that one year on, the New Zealand legislation has been found to be working well.
The New South Wales and Tasmanian state governments will introduce similar legislation next year and Western Australia and South Australia are also expected to introduce similar bans in the future.
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