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NSW prisons smoke free from tomorrow

Issued: Sunday, 9 August 2015

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Smoking will be banned in all NSW correctional centres from tomorrow, reducing the harmful effects of tobacco smoke on hard-working prison staff.

Corrective Services NSW (CSNSW) has been planning the transition to the new, healthier policy for more than 12 months, with the involvement of staff and inmates.

From tomorrow, cigarettes, tobacco and smoking-related items such as matches, lighters and e-cigarettes will be confiscated and treated like other contraband.

CSNSW Commissioner Peter Severin said common areas in prison buildings are already smoke free and the ban was now being extended to include inmate cells and outdoor areas.

"We have made a commitment to implement this change for the health of our prison staff and are well prepared for the transition," Mr Severin said.

"It follows successful smoke-free rollouts in other jurisdictions including Queensland and the Northern Territory.

"We have learned lessons from the disturbance in Victoria, and an independent analysis conducted by Queensland Corrective Services has confirmed that we're ready to go."

Nicotine Replacement Therapy and other assistance will be provided for staff and inmates. The Justice Health & Forensic Mental Health Network (JH&FMHN), which provides health care in prisons, will assist inmates who are giving up smoking.

JH&FMHN Chief Executive Julie Babineau said 76 per cent of inmates in NSW smoke, compared with some 17 per cent of the general population.

"About 85 per cent of inmates who smoke have told us they would like to quit, but the prevalence of smoking in prisons makes it hard," Ms Babineau said.

"Smoking is the biggest preventable cause of illness in our community.  This will give inmates and staff the help they need. We have already seen many staff and inmates engaging available supports including Nicotine Replacement Therapy patches and the Quitline."

Inmates have been provided with a range of outdoor and indoor activities as alternatives to smoking, including sports equipment, competitions and playing cards.

CSNSW has emergency management plans in place to mitigate and respond to any disruption.

BACKGROUND

Corrective Services staff will not be able to smoke at work. Staff living on CSNSW sites will be able to smoke only when off duty and in a designated area outside their residential accommodation that is not visible from a correctional centre. Most of these sites are at remote locations such as Ivanhoe and Brewarrina. Staff pay rent for this accommodation and it is not considered their workplace. Similar exemptions apply to other service housing.

CSNSW has established smoke free workplace committees in all correctional centres, which have developed local implementation plans.

Inmates have been an integral part of the project and have assisted in getting the message out via video messaging, posters, flyers and peer support roles.

CSNSW and JH&FMHN have identified at-risk inmates and developed individual case management and care plans to assist their smoking cessation.

JH&FMHN will provide ongoing assessments and, if clinically indicated, offer a further month's supply of NRT patches after the first four weeks.

Evidence suggests that the majority of inmates will have minimal or no craving for tobacco after eight weeks.

Visitors to correctional centres will still be able to bring in cigarettes and related items, but they must be left in vehicles or in lockers in visits areas.

Media inquiries: 0419 258 290