Secondhand smoke in Scottish prisons plummets

Health experts hail smoking ban a ‘public health success’ as air quality in prisons now similar to outdoor conditions

Wednesday 21st August 2019

Eight months after a ban on smoking came into force across all Scotland’s prisons, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde (GGC) has declared the move a public health success.

The health board supports three prisons – HMPs Barlinnie, Greenock and Low Moss – and prior to implementation of the ban, worked with the Scottish Prisons Service (SPS) to increase quitting support for prisoners.

“Eight months on we can look back and hail this as a major public health success,” says NHSGGC’s director of public health, Dr Linda de Caestecker.

“This was one of the best examples of partnership working in public health with NHSGGC, the Scottish Government and the Scottish Prisons Service working well together with very effective communication between three agencies.”

Before the legislation was introduced, an estimated 68% of prisoners smoked – compared with around 18% of the general public. 

Smoking still kills around one in five people in Scotland and reducing smoking prevalence remains a public health priority.

The smoke-free legislation was introduced following concerns for the welfare of both those in custody and those who work in prisons.

Prisoners were also given the option of a rechargeable e-cigarette to help them adapt to a smoke-free environment.

Dr de Caestecker added: “Providing a smoke free prison environment for people to live, work and visit will undoubtedly improve health and change smoking behaviour - not only in prison but also as people return to the community.

“Our staff worked extremely well with SPS colleagues, to make sure the change was as smooth as possible for all concerned. A lot of planning went into this and just before the ban we were running 18 stop smoking groups each week in the prisons we cover.

“The preparation and planning was based on very good research from University of Glasgow.

“There has been greater on-going demand for stop smoking services than even we anticipated, and we continue to provide significant levels of support to those in custody.

“Our work continues as new prisoners arrive and need our help to manage in a smoke free prison.

“The best news is that the air quality in Scottish Prisons is now broadly similar to air quality outdoors. There is now evidence that Smoke Free Prisons resulted in 81% reduction in second hand smoke across Scottish prisons. This is good news for prisoners, staff and visitors.”