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Smoke-free policies in U.S. prisons and jails A review of the literature

INTRODUCTION: Despite progress in limiting exposure to secondhand smoke (SHS) in the United States, little is known about the impact of smoke-free polices in prisons and jails. SHS exposure in this setting may be great, as smoking prevalence among inmates is more than three times higher than among non-incarcerated adults. To inform the implementation of smoke-free policies, this article reviews the literature on the extent, nature, and impact of smoke-free policies in U.S. prisons and jails. METHODS: We systematically searched PubMed, Embase, EconLit, and Social Services Abstracts databases. We examined studies published prior to January 2014 that described policies prohibiting smoking tobacco in adult U.S. correctional facilities. RESULTS: Twenty-seven studies met inclusion criteria. Smoke-free policies in prisons were rare in the 1980s but, by 2007, 87% prohibited smoking indoors. Policies reduced SHS exposure and a small body of evidence suggests they are associated with health benefits. We did not identify any studies documenting economic outcomes. Non-compliance with policies was documented in a small number of prisons and jails, with 20%-76% of inmates reporting smoking in violation of a policy. Despite barriers, policies were implemented successfully when access to contraband tobacco was limited and penalties were enforced. CONCLUSION: Smoke-free policies have become increasingly common in prisons and jails, but evidence suggests they are not consistently implemented. Future studies should examine the health and economic outcomes of smoke-free policies in prisons and jails. By implementing smoke-free policies, prisons and jails have an opportunity to improve the health of staff and inmates


Kennedy, S., Davis, SP., & Thorne, SL. (2015). Smoke-free policies in U.S. prisons and jails: A review of the literature. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 17(6), 629-635. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/ntu225

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