Current Tobacco Policies in U.S. Adult Male Prisons

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2001



The current national trend in the restriction of smoking and use of tobacco products is extending to the prison system. At the same time that city, state and the federal governments are limiting smoking in public places and businesses, state and federal prison systems are limiting use in correctional facilities. The data for this paper was collected by mail from departments of correction in the fifty states, the District of Columbia and the federal Bureau of Prisons. The results show a continuing trend in tobacco limitation policies at male prisons within the U. S. Several states totally ban all tobacco and only a few still allow generally unlimited use. Limitation policies range from segregation into smoking and nonsmoking areas to the banishment of inmates and staff to smoking areas outside prison buildings.

While many see a nonsmoking prison system as the wave of the future, use of tobacco in prisons is still common. This research examines the official reason given for changes in tobacco policy and the alterations in prison operations that developed after restrictions were implemented. Increased tensions developed among inmates, staff and administration as a result of the new policies. For those prison systems that banned tobacco, an active black market operation developed eclipsing other contraband problems.