can you have cigarettes in prison

Can You Have Cigarettes in Prison


Picture this: you’re watching a prison movie. One scene shows an inmate trading a pack of cigarettes for some other goods. It’s a common trope in media, but have you ever wondered, is this a reality? Can you actually have cigarettes in prison?

Prison Rules: Smoking Policy

Just like any institution, prisons have rules and regulations, which include smoking policies. Historically, cigarettes were allowed and quite common in prisons. However, these policies have shifted over time due to numerous factors such as health concerns, safety issues, and legal implications.

Cigarettes as Currency

You might be wondering why cigarettes? In the past, the prevalence of cigarettes in prison had led them to become a form of currency among inmates. These miniature sticks of tobacco often were traded for goods and services within the prison walls.

Health Concerns

One of the primary reasons for the shift in smoking policies in prisons is the health concerns associated with smoking. Secondhand smoke is a major issue, and nonsmoking inmates and staff have rights to a safe and healthy environment.

Legal Implications

Smoking in US Prisons

In the United States, federal prisons banned smoking in 2004. Today, most state prisons also prohibit smoking, with a few exceptions.

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Smoking in UK Prisons

On the other side of the pond, the United Kingdom enforced a prison smoking ban in 2016, citing similar health concerns and legal issues.

Alternatives to Cigarettes

In response to the bans, some prisons provide alternatives such as nicotine patches or gums to help inmates cope with withdrawal symptoms.

Contraband and Cigarettes

Despite the bans, cigarettes are often smuggled into prisons and become contraband. This has led to an underground economy and serious legal implications for those caught in the act.

Smoking Bans

Some argue that outright bans may not be the best solution. Instead, designated smoking areas or controlled access to tobacco products could be a more manageable approach.

The Impact on Prisoners

How have these bans affected prisoners? Quitting cold turkey can be challenging, leading to increased tension and instances of violence in some cases.

Counselling and Quit Programs

To address this issue, some prisons offer counseling services and quit smoking programs to help inmates quit smoking effectively and manage withdrawal symptoms.

Smoking and Recidivism

Research suggests that there could be a correlation between smoking and recidivism rates. Offering smoking cessation support could, therefore, play a role in reducing repeat offences.


So, can you have cigarettes in prison? The answer largely depends on where and when. While historically cigarettes were common in prison, today, most prisons have smoking bans in place. These shifts in policies reflect concerns about health, legal implications, and a changing societal perspective on smoking.


  1. When did federal prisons in the United States ban smoking?
    • Federal prisons in the United States banned smoking in 2004.
  2. What are some alternatives to cigarettes provided in prisons?
    • Some prisons provide nicotine patches or gums as alternatives to cigarettes.
  3. How has the ban on cigarettes affected prisoners?
    • The ban can lead to increased tension and instances of violence as quitting smoking can be challenging.
  4. What support is offered to inmates who want to quit smoking?
    • Some prisons offer counseling services and quit smoking programs to inmates.
  5. Is there a correlation between smoking and recidivism rates?
    • Research suggests that there could be a correlation, although more studies are needed to confirm this.
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