Journal of Public Health Policy

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 32–45 | Cite as

Smoking in prisons: The need for effective and acceptable interventions

  • Catherine RitterEmail author
  • Heino Stöver
  • Michael Levy
  • Jean-François Etter
  • Bernice Elger
Original Article


Tobacco-smoking prevalence has been decreasing in many high-income countries, but not in prison. We provide a summary of recent data on smoking in prison (United States, Australia, and Europe), and discuss examples of implemented policies for responding to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS), their health, humanitarian, and ethical aspects. We gathered data through a systematic literature review, and added the authors’ ongoing experience in the implementation of smoking policies outside and inside prisons in Australia and Europe. Detainees’ smoking prevalence varies between 64 per cent and 91.8 per cent, and can be more than three times as high as in the general population. Few data are available on the prevalence of smoking in women detainees and staff. Policies vary greatly. Bans may either be ‘total’ or ‘partial’ (smoking allowed in cells or designated places). A comprehensive policy strategy to reduce ETS needs a harm minimization philosophy, and should include environmental restrictions, information, and support to detainees and staff for smoking cessation, and health staff training in smoking cessation.


tobacco smoking policy prison ban 


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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Catherine Ritter
    • 1
    Email author
  • Heino Stöver
    • 2
  • Michael Levy
    • 3
  • Jean-François Etter
    • 4
  • Bernice Elger
    • 1
  1. 1.University Center of Legal Medicine of Geneva and LausanneGenevaSwitzerland
  2. 2.Faculty of Health and Social Work, University of Applied SciencesFrankfurtGermany
  3. 3.School of Clinical Medicine, College of Medicine, Biology and Environment, Australian National UniversityCanberra CityAustralia
  4. 4.Faculty of Medicine, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of GenevaGenevaSwitzerland

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