Death sentence: UK prisoners not protected from secondhand smoke, court rules

© Suzanne Plunkett
Inmates looking for freedom from cigarette smoke are choking on a new appeals court decision affecting prisons across England and Wales. The court ruled that the UK ban on smoking in public places doesn’t cover correctional institutions.

The Court of Appeal ruled against a case brought forward by Paul Black, an inmate at HMP Whymott in Lancashire who said he suffered from health problems due to his exposure to secondhand smoke.

State prisons currently allow smoking in prison cells and exercise yards, but inmates like Paul Black may breathe a sigh of relief soon enough, as the British government still wants to gradually roll out a ban across its lockups in England and Wales.

A spokesman for the Prison Service said they wanted to phase out smoking “in a safe and secure way” instead of pushing it through immediately.

Lawyers representing the government said an outright ban could put both staff and inmates at risk.

Hollywood films and TV shows portray cigarettes as currency inside prison. So perhaps due to an addiction to nicotine - or greed - prisoners threatened to riot in lower security jails last year after a non-smoking scheme was implemented inside the buildings, according to Sky News, who saw letters from inmates threatening violence in retaliation to any ban.

“If this ban comes in, there will be violence. Trust me,” a prisoner wrote.

Around 80 percent of UK prisoners currently smoke, so the Prison Service might want to stock up on nicotine patches and gum.