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Experts warn of ‘massive rise’ in UK prison violence over new smoking (and vaping) ban

The UK prison system is implementing a gradual rollout of a new ban on both smoking and vaping, and industry experts are warning of a potential increase in inmate crime by summer’s end.  The next phase of the ban will demand that all long-term prisoners and those held in maximum-security must no longer be allowed to neither smoke nor vape after August 31, 2017.

Anyone who has ever tried to quit smoking cold-turkey knows all too well how mind-altering and emotion-inducing the process can be.  The most common side effects of quitting smoking include increased levels of agitation, moodiness, restlessness, and depression.  Now, when those symptoms are heaped onto the maximum-security population of a local prison, the most diehard and nothing-to-lose bunch of criminals in the entire system, who knows what will happen.

More than 80 percent of the UK prison population smokes

According to a news story published in The Telegraph last month, inmates in all UK prisons were issued a memo which warns them of the coming August 31 cutoff date.  Prison officials are also encouraging everyone who smokes to sign up for smoking addiction classes or apply for nicotine replacement therapies like “the patch” or nicotine gums to help them quit.

Once again, public health experts are pushing their smoking constituents right into the arms of Big Pharma as opposed to the more effective and healthier alternative of vaping.


The program has already been implemented in 21 smaller prisons in Wales, but this will be the very first time that the policy will be enacted in maximum-security facilities housing the most dangerous of all criminals.  Criminal justice experts are warning prison officials to be prepared for increases in prison-on-prisoner violence, issues of self-harm, and solicitation by prison inmates of alternative “substances” to curb their cravings for cigarettes. 

According to one inmate-turned-prison-affairs-expert named Alex Cavenish, these sorts of outcomes are already well documented in the 21 prisons of lower security where the smoking and vaping ban has already been implemented.  And the violence will likely only escalate in the maximum-security prisons. 

 “The experience of the pilot projects of the smoking ban that they’ve run from last year shows that there are very serious concerns. It seems that this is being rolled out primarily as a means of avoiding potential compensation claims from staff and non-smoking inmates, rather than actually looking at the evidence of the problems that are well-documented.”
“If you look at all the reports from prisons where it has been rolled out, they are all pointing to very serious problems, including a massive rise in prisoners turning to other substances, whether they are illegal drugs or the brewing of hooch or smuggling of tobacco at vastly inflated prices.”
- As quoted to The Independent

If more than 80 percent of the UK prison population smokes, then why are prison officials implementing a ban?  According to published reports, Wardens tend to believe that the remaining 20 percent, the non-smoking inmate population and prison employees, have the right to live and work in a smoke-free environment.

While this is a tough statement to argue, the fact that the UK is including vaping in the smoking ban is somewhat surprising.  After all, the Royal College of Physicians has publicly stated that vaping is 95 percent healthier than smoking and that all medical professionals should encourage vaping as a smoking cessation tool.

Perhaps prison officials are worried of inmates turning their vape gear into shanks and other weaponry, which is completely understandable.  At least they are giving the inmates fair warning of the coming vaping and smoking ban…and offering help and support in their efforts to quit smoking once and for all.


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