Successful elimination of second-hand smoke in Scottish prisons through a comprehensive smoking ban

Smoking in enclosed public spaces was prohibited by law throughout Scotland in 2006 to protect non-smokers from exposure to second-hand smoke (SHS). Nonetheless, Scotland’s prisons were exempt from this legislation, meaning that SHS present in cells and communal areas posed a potential risk to health for both prison staff and people in custody. To address this inequity, the Scottish Government called for a ban on smoking in its prisons as part of a wider ambition to create a tobacco-free generation of Scots by 2034. Researchers from the Institute of Health and Wellbeing partnered with the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) to support delivery and evaluation of an evidence-based smoke-free policy. Their work highlighted the scale of the problem through identifying high occupational SHS exposures and informed the decision taken by SPS to rapidly implement a comprehensive smoking ban, which came into force across all 15 Scottish prisons on 30 November 2018. When compared with pre-ban measurements, SHS levels in Scotland’s prisons were reduced by 80% immediately after implementation of the smoking ban, and by 91% at 6 months. SHS exposures among approximately 4,000 prison staff and 8,200 people in custody are now similar to those found in most smoke-free environments.

Research funded by National Institute for Health and Care Research.