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Welsh Assembly consultation on “managed” reduction of smoking in prisons (14 September 2015)

Date: 14/09/2015
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, Welsh Assembly consultation on “managed” reduction of smoking in prisons

The Welsh Assembly has launched a consultation on smoke-free prisons across Wales.

All prison cells will be required to be smoke free by April 2017 – currently, there is an exemption period in operation, which is due to end in 2017.

However, in Wales there is currently no exemption in place to allow smoking in prisons – although evidence shows that smoking is being allowed in some prison cells across Wales, with the result that non-smoking offenders and prison staff are potentially being exposed to second-hand smoke.

The Welsh government introduced a ban on smoking in enclosed public and work places in Wales in 2007.

The new consultation launched on Friday (11/09/15) sets out possible methods of supporting Welsh prisons to achieve – in a safe and secure way – the ultimate goal of becoming smoke-free by April 2017.

Welsh Assembly Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“Reducing the number of smokers in Wales has been a great public health success.

“The latest figures show smoking rates have fallen to 20%.

“Despite this progress, we cannot be complacent – and want to go further, as smoking continues to be the largest single preventable cause of ill health and death in Wales.

“The issue of smoking in prisons needs to be addressed, so prisoners and staff are protected from the potential damage to their health.

“Moving to a completely smoke-free prison estate will improve the health of all inmates and staff – but it must be managed in a way that will not increase the risk to the operational security of Welsh prisons.

“The proposed regulations are one way in which we can support prisons to achieve that goal in a managed way.”

A report published by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists estimates that more than 80% of male and female prisoners in the UK are smokers.

The UK Government has responsibility for the management of prisons and their internal operations – but Welsh Ministers have powers in relation to health.

The UK government intends that the exemption will come into force in February 2016, but will be time limited until 5 April, 2017 with prisons being smoke-free by 6 April, 2017 at the latest.

The Welsh government says that the exemption period would bring the legislation in force in Wales in line with that in force in England, where prison governors can already designate cells where smoking is permitted.

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