Feds ban smoking in prisons

Federal prisoners will be prohibited from smoking under new rules from the Bureau of Prisons.

With few exceptions, the smoking ban in federal prisons will target more than 212,000 inmates who will be disciplined if they are caught with cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or any other tobacco products, according to the bureau.

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The prison bureau’s crackdown on smoking comes as part of an effort to promote a healthy and clean environment for prisoners and guards.

“Back when I worked in the prisons, staff and inmates smoked all over the place,” said Ed Ross, a spokesman for the prison bureau. “Tobacco was very common.”

But the bureau has been cutting back on smoking at federal facilities in recent years. It originally proposed the smoking ban in 2006.

The final rules are scheduled to be published in Monday’s edition of the Federal Register and will formalize the smoking ban.

The rules would apply to inmates at 120 federal prisons around the country, but not those at state prisons who are subject to different rules.

"Tobacco in federal prisons is contraband and inmates that are caught with tobacco are disciplined,” Ross said.

Prisoners caught smoking will have their tobacco confiscated and could lose privileges, such as visitations and phone calls, Ross said.

More serious offenders are sometimes punished by being removed from the general population, he added.

The Bureau of Prisons offers smoking cessation programs for inmates who are forced to quit cold turkey, Ross said.

Some prisoners will be exempted from the smoking ban for religious reasons.

The smoking ban could also affect prison guards, staff, and visitors, who will also be prohibited from smoking, except in designated areas, the bureau said.

The Prisons Bureau says this will not only improve the health of inmates who smoke, but also those who are exposed to secondhand smoke.

"It creates a healthier environment for staff and inmates,” Ross said.

The move corresponds with rules prohibiting smoking on all property owned or rented by the federal government.

The smoking ban goes into effect in 30 days, though many prisons are already enforcing the rules.