Prisons in Scotland have distributed around 7,500 starter kits in a bid to improve physical and mental health among inmates.
A nationwide prison smoking ban was brought in November, but Scotland still had to contend with a high rate of nicotine addiction in prisons.
In August, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) strengthened its commitment to going smoke-free by announcing it would provide inmates with starter kits. Prominent vape company JAC Vapour stepped up to provide the kits. The investment by SPS totals £150 000, averaging £14 each.
Though some have criticised the cost, the SPS insist that this is a worthwhile investment in the long and short-term health of both prisoners and staff.
At the time of the ban, a study found that prisoners in Scotland had a 72 percent smoking rate, significantly higher than any demographic in the general public. They also had a second-hand smoking rate comparable to a public bar in Scotland prior to the 2006 ban.
It is too early to get a full measurement of how this will affect the prison smoking rate, but staff have praised the changes already.
Scottish Prisoner Services spokesman Tom Fox said:
“It’s a very positive step for the well-being of the people in our care and the people who work for us. I think it’s money well spent. The health benefits for our staff and those in our care greatly outweigh any initial cost we have introducing the programme.”
Both prison staff and inmates have also reported a noticeable improvement in air quality, with the SPS claiming it to be 80 percent cleaner.
Speaking to BBC Scotland, a female inmate claimed that providing e-cigarettes lessened the negatives of the ban:
“There’s not been a lot of trouble, or anything like that, since the smoking ban came in, which you would expect, and that’s down to the fact we have had the vapes.”
Inmates are provided with an e-cigarette and three flavoured e-liquids free of charge. However, they are expected to pay for refills.