by Saskia Edwards. Edited for Online by Joshua Bristow
Queensland Prisons implemented a ban on cigarettes today despite critics saying the policy could encourage a new black market.
Attorney-General Jarrod Bleijie says the move is about protecting staff, prisoners and taxpayers’ wallets.
“This is about the health and wellbeing of our corrective services staff. We know that in our prison population we have about a quarter of prisoners suffering from a chronic tobacco illness,”
“Millions and millions of dollars around Queensland a year are being targeted by this law, we know that smoking kills 3,500 Queenslanders a year and of course the Queensland taxpayer picks up the doctors bill particularly in prison.” Mr Bleijie said.
According to some correctional centres the new law has already caused 80 per cent of prisoners to quit smoking.
But concerns have been raised this will only increase contraband trade of cigarettes.
Sisters Inside CEO Debbie Kilroy says cigarettes will still be in prisons.
“Anything that you prohibit that governments prohibit and we’ve seen prohibition over the years that there will always be an underground market. Prisons can’t stop illegal drugs from getting into prison; they won’t stop tobacco getting into prisons,”
She also says that the new laws might impeach on Prisoners’ rights.
“People are stressed out; they are hanging out from a drug addiction, being nicotine which is the worst addiction to give up, worse than heroin. So it is about people rights” Ms Kilroy said.
Queensland Council of Civil Liberties president Michael Cope agrees prisoners will be angered by the move.
“I suspect some people will feel their civil liberties will have been violated and there will be some anger about that I imagine,” Mr Cope said.
He asks why other options, such as designated smoking areas, had not been pursued.
“Why isn’t it possible to create some confined area of the prison where those who wish to smoke and continue to smoke can smoke without interfering with other people in the prison?” Mr Cope said.
Australian Council for Smoking and Health President Mike Daube says prisoners are more susceptible to smoking addiction.
“We know that the less well educated you are the more likely you are to smoke and unfortunately a lot of people in prisons are not very well educated.” he said.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare almost 85 per cent of prisoners are smokers, roughly five times the rate of the general population.