Up in Smoke: Quebec Prison Partial Smoking Ban is not Successful

The partial smoking ban in Quebec prisons is leading to a slew of new problems according to an investigative study involving the Université de Montréal. Their findings, part of a report conducted by the Institut National de Santé Publique, show that the courtyard-only policy for smoking has not led to quitting but rather to tension in the prison and cigarette-based economy.

“The partial ban is on smoking is complex,” says Serge Brochu lead researcher of the study and associate professor of criminology at the Université of Montréal. “Because they are allowed to smoke during their hour of recreation, the prisoners do. However, they want more. Their disgruntlement stems from their inability to smoke as much as they want, from having a limited supply and from the perception of being discriminated against by the general population.”

Breaking the ban:

Brochu and his team interviewed 113 prisoners and 27 personnel members in three different prisons: the Quebec detention center, Bordeaux and Maison Tanguay.

Their findings showed that some 80 percent of prisoners smoke. All are allowed to purchase cigarettes weekly at the general store.

Problems revolving around cigarette-use, such as cigarette trafficking, intimidation and even prostitution were reported in the study.  “It’s basic supply and demand,” says Brochu. “The partial acceptance of smoking is creating a black-market economy. Even non-smokers purchase cigarettes in order to resell them and the price of a pack can go from 11 to 18 dollars.”

On February 5, 2008, smoking was banned in Quebec prisons. Three days later the rule was reviewed and prisoners were given permission to smoke in the courtyard.

According to Brochu, 93 percent of smokers admitted smoking indoors despite the regulations. As a result, the partial ban is making life more complicated for smokers and non-smokers alike.

“A total ban would be much easier to apply than the current partial one,” says Brochu.

Quebec and the Northwest Territories are the only places in Canada where smoking is still allowed in prisons.

Partners in research:

This study was funded by the Institut National de Santé Publique.

*Source : University of Montreal

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