Why not give them e-cigarettes?

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After a riot which caused $10 million in property damage, and potentially blowing a hole in the state budget, the Victorian government is sticking with smoke-free prisons.

The entire episode is a fascinating case study into the implementation of poor, evidence-free public policy, and the obstinate lengths that governments are sometimes willing to go to in order to defend them.

On this occasion, the government assumed, in the face of warnings to the contrary, that this instance of paternalism could be imposed on a prison population without repercussions. A prison environment is already a tense environment, and forcing prisoners off of cigarettes is an obviously dangerous move.

But since the government is so committed to this, why not think outside of the box?

Why not introduce e-cigarettes to prisons?

In the United States, the provision of e-cigarettes in prisons is quite common in some areas. One writer laments the controversial practice whereby a proportion of the sale of e-cigarettes in prisons are given to the prison itself.

With some tinkering, this could be a solution that should satisfy all parties. By allowing jails to raise revenue by permitting e-cigs to be sold at a premium, it would reduce the reliance on the government, and taxpayers, to fund them. Prisoners would be able to consume a substitute product, appeasing their agitation with the cigarette ban. Finally, the public health lobby, as concerned as they are with prisoner welfare, would surely revel in the knowledge that prisoners are moved onto a safer alternative. Surely.

Unlikely.

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