British prisoners smoking improvised roll-ups spark fire concerns

Jen Offord

Guidance has been issued to the governors of UK prisons as inmates find imaginative alternatives to cigarettes in their newly smoke-free environments. According to reports on Monday, as well as fashioning improvised cigarettes, in some cases inmates caused fire hazards thanks to their means of lighting up.

A smoking ban began to be implemented in prisons in South West England and Wales in 2016 and though the phased transition has been less problematic than thought. However, prison reports indicated some creative interpretations of cigarettes by inmates. In Exeter, prisoners had apparently mixed tea leaves with film scraped from nicotine patches which they had tried to smoke.

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Similarly, at Channings Wood, a report from an unannounced inspection found: "Prisoners made a number of improvised cigarettes by rolling dried grass, tea and a range of other matter in thin paper torn from books."

The report added: "We [inspectors] were told that there was a shortage of kettles; although there was an almost constant requisition order for replacements, we saw many kettles in which the flex had been cut to provide a spark to light illicit 'cigarettes' following the imposition of the establishment-wide smoking ban."

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More generally, the report said anecdotal evidence suggested an increase in the use of alcohol and "other substances" since the ban. It also suggested a higher-than-normal rate of self-harm at the prison could be attributed to the ban. Though it said: "Incidents were not adequately interrogated to identify local trends, including the impact of the smoking ban."

However, despite the "improvised cigarettes" a report on an unannounced visit to Exeter in August last year said the ban had been "generally well-managed". The report added: "This was a major achievement."

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A prison service spokesperson told The Times: "All prisoners receive support in quitting smoking should they require it. This includes nicotine replacement therapy and behavioural support.

"Where prisoners are found to be misusing substances or replacement patches, the item will immediately be confiscated and the offender will face additional punishment."

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