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Inmates in Irish prisons will soon have access to e-cigarettes

A new smoking policy for the prison service is currently being finalised.

Image: e-cigarette image via Shutterstock

INMATES IN IRISH prisons who are trying to quit smoking will soon have access to electronic cigarettes.

In a recent court case, the barrister for a defendant complained to the judge that the man had been advised for health reasons to stop smoking, but e-cigarettes could not be sent in because of a “procurement problem”.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service told TheJournal.ie that these devices are not currently available at present, but their availability does form part of a new smoking policy that is being finalised.

E-cigarettes were last year made available in every prison shop in the UK, ahead of the phased roll-out of a complete ban on smoking in English and Welsh jails. The devices are also available in a number of states in the US, where traditional cigarettes are prohibited in most prisons and jails.

The New York Times reported in 2014 that county sheriffs said there was a reduction in violence in jails after the introduction of e-cigarettes. “The thing I like about it is it controls the guy,” one sheriff said. “We had four or five fights last week. One guy who’d had a fight asked for an e-cigarette and it calmed him down. It’s not meant to help inmates, it’s meant to help my guys.”

Irish inmates do not have a right to smoke in prison, but they can be granted permission to do so by the governor. Even with permission, smoking is restricted to certain areas like the prisoner’s room or outside areas.

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“We’re currently looking at testing the device from a security point of view. We have to make sure that it can’t be used to smoke anything other than the vapour,” the prison service spokesperson explained.

They will be made available on a very restricted basis from the tuck shop – so they won’t be able to get people to bring them in for them. It will be an approved device with approved capsules.

They said they expected the new policy to be in place “in the near future”.

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