OBJECTIVE: To examine current tobacco policy in US prisons and explore changes in prison tobacco policies over time.
DATA SOURCE: Telephone survey of the 52 US departments of correction.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Current tobacco policy; distribution of free tobacco; availability of smoking cessation programming and cessation aids.
PARTICIPANTS: Complete responses were received from 51 of 52 (98%) departments, while one provided partial information.
RESULTS: The majority of correctional systems (60%) reported total tobacco bans on prison grounds, with most remaining facilities (27%) having an indoor ban on tobacco use. No prisons distributed free tobacco. No major violence was reported relating to the implementation of stricter tobacco policies, however many respondents noted that tobacco became a major contraband item following the implementation of a total ban. While most prison systems with an indoor tobacco ban (86%) reported having tobacco cessation programmes, few of those with total bans (39%) continued such programmes after the initial transition period.
CONCLUSION: Total tobacco bans have often been accompanied by the termination of tobacco cessation programmes. Such actions undermine efforts to promote long-term cessation resulting in a missed public health opportunity.
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