AN Indigenous health leader believes a smoking ban at Canberra’s prison will drive up the tobacco trade in jail.
It comes as the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC) prepares to go smoke-free.
Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health and Community Services CEO Julie Tongs said the government’s plan to ban smoking at the prison is “ridiculous” and could lead to a black-market in contraband tobacco.
“There’s no way it will be a smoke-free jail,” said Tongs.
“Tobacco will become another contraband.
“At the moment it’s about $60 for a pouch of tobacco and if they ban it they’ll be paying $300 or $600 depending on the market.
Corrections Minister Mick Gentleman said the transition to a smoke-free facility would take “about a year “and inmates will be “offered support”.
“Detainees are not being asked to quit cold turkey,” Gentleman said.
“Staff at the AMC will be supported to quit smoking if they wish too as they also won’t be able to smoke within the facility,” he said.
“Nicotine replacement therapies and a range of supports to help people cope with withdrawal symptoms will be available during the transition.”
The recommendation to ban smoking – would bring the AMC in line with most other prisons around the country – and was included in the Blueprint for Change report handed down earlier this year.
Speaking to CityNews Tongs said the transition to a smoke-free jail would generate inmate unrest and potentially start riots.
“Absolutely it will,” she said.
“If they want to give up smoking that’s fine, but not all of them will want to give it up and that will create another set of issues.”
According to a survey about 82 per cent of detainees at the Canberra prison smoked in 2016, with 14 per cent taking up smoking while they were in custody.
“The survey results also showed that 60 per cent of respondents had tried to quit smoking while in detention, and 67 per cent indicated they would like to quit smoking,” ACT Corrective Services commissioner Ray Johnson said.
ACT Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman said she was “pleased” with the move to make the jail smoke-free.
“The AMC has a significantly higher smoking rate than the general population and this is an important step to protect all detainees, staff and visitors from the harmful effects of smoking,” Dr Coleman said.
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