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England and Wales is the largest prison estate in Europe to be smokefree, with around 85,000 people in 122 prisons. In 2018, England joined Wales in having a smokefree prison estate; Dave Jones from Public Health England shares his thoughts on the recent implementation of this multi-agency collaborative programme.
"Achieving a smoke free prisons estate has seen an evolving public health opportunity become reality. Providing a safe, smoke free environment for people to live, work and visit can no doubt deliver one of the biggest public health gains the prison estate has ever seen. However as tempting as it might be to think of this as job done, we risk settling into basic implementation of policy and losing the opportunity to provide a clean break from smoking for a population at great risk.
Whether people welcomed the move, or saw it as an infringement of their rights, there is no doubt that the decision to move to a smoke free estate generated a lot of discussion. It was important that the programme brought people with it, rather than leaving them behind. So discussion was welcomed, though this never dwelt on the what and the when, rather it focussed on the how and the who. The early adopters in the South West of England and Wales showed us that when people were engaged and ready, rollout went well. Wherever possible support mirrored that provided in the community. Focus groups and feedback from prisoners, staff and visitors saw the programme adapt as needs arose. As an example, in response to prisoner feedback, the introduction of e-cigarettes in 2017 was received very positively, delivering a route to success, other than going cold turkey, that people could do themselves.
So if you are thinking whether this possible where you are, please take a moment to pause and reflect on what can be gained by achieving this amazing milestone. Take hope from our success and start to think of the future. What can you achieve? Another policy implemented, or the start of an evolution."