Smoking in prisons: the need for effective and acceptable interventions

J Public Health Policy. 2011 Feb;32(1):32-45. doi: 10.1057/jphp.2010.47. Epub 2010 Dec 16.


Tobacco-smoking prevalence has been decreasing in many high-income countries, but not in prison. We provide a summary of recent data on smoking in prison (United States, Australia, and Europe), and discuss examples of implemented policies for responding to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), their health, humanitarian, and ethical aspects. We gathered data through a systematic literature review, and added the authors' ongoing experience in the implementation of smoking policies outside and inside prisons in Australia and Europe. Detainees' smoking prevalence varies between 64 per cent and 91.8 per cent, and can be more than three times as high as in the general population. Few data are available on the prevalence of smoking in women detainees and staff. Policies vary greatly. Bans may either be 'total' or 'partial' (smoking allowed in cells or designated places). A comprehensive policy strategy to reduce ETS needs a harm minimization philosophy, and should include environmental restrictions, information, and support to detainees and staff for smoking cessation, and health staff training in smoking cessation.

MeSH terms

  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Organizational Policy
  • Prisons*
  • Smoking / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology