Prisons ban smoking; Cigarettes outlawed anywhere on grounds

Canada's federal prisons are set to go totally smoke-free at the end of April.

Canada's federal prisons are set to go totally smoke-free at the end of April. The Correctional Service of Canada instituted an indoor ban on smoking in 2006, and at the end of next month will expand that ban to inmates smoking in prison yards as well as staff smoking anywhere on the grounds. The national director of the John Howard Society questions the move, pointing out that while tobacco is socially frowned upon, it is still legal, and inmates are supposed to be allowed to take part in legal activities like any other Canadian, less the loss of freedoms they suffer due to incarceration. "I personally think smoking is a dreadful habit, but it's one of the few pleasures, if I can put it that way, that their situation affords," Craig Jones said from his West-end Kingston office. While smoking was officially banned in cellblocks on health and safety grounds as it is a workplace for guards and other correctional employees, he questioned the justification for banning smoking in the open air. He also noted that the policy could create management issues for guards with large numbers of inmates suffering withdrawal when the ban takes effect. Corrections says it will offer smoking cessation aids and substitutes to inmates and staff who request it. Jason Godin, Ontario president of the union that represents guards, said that the indoor smoking ban introduced two years ago was being widely flouted by inmates and that a full prohibition of tobacco was the only way to enforce a ban. Prisons are federal buildings, he noted, and the anti-smoking provisions are the same as those that exist in any other government institution. "This is no different than any other federal workplace in the country," he said. He noted front-line guards were at highest risk of exposure to second-hand smoke, as were inmates who have already butted out, and said prohibiting smoking was in no way different than prohibiting consumption of other products, such as booze. "Tobacco may be a legal substance on the street, but so is drinking alcohol, and we don't sell alcohol in our canteens."

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