Missouri prisons go tobacco free

Published: Apr. 4, 2018 at 5:27 AM CDT
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Missouri prisons are now tobacco free. This change comes after an inmate took the Missouri Department of Corrections to court and won, blaming the department for his secondhand smoke.

The tobacco free change became official April 1, 2018. The ban is for both offenders and those who work or volunteer in state corrections facilities. The Missouri Department of Corrections website states, "In compliance with a court order, the Department of Corrections has agreed to implement a policy banning the sale, possession and use of all tobacco products within the perimeter of each DOC institution." The website continues to clarify the ban includes outdoor areas, as well as inside all buildings and vehicles owned or leased by the department. There will be a designated smoking area for employees and visitors outside the department facilities and buildings.

The ban will be applied to all tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, loose tobacco, e-cigarettes, vaping devices, chewing tobacco and any other tobacco-containing substance. The only exceptions would be for religious purposes.

Karen Pojmann with the Missouri Department of Corrections said they've worked on these changes for the past six months. She also said they understand it will be hard for everyone who is quitting and going through withdrawals. "Our healthcare providers have been offering educational materials, we've had counseling, we've had support groups to help people make this transition and prepare to manage their cravings or quit tobacco entirely," said Pojmann.

Pojmann also talked about how prepared the department is to deal with the new contraband. "We have been managing dealing with contraband in many other forms for many years, so we'll treat it the same way," she said. "Of course, there will be a transitional period when people are transitioning to being tobacco free."

She also said not everyone is mad about the change. "I've heard from some staff and offenders alike that they're grateful for this happening even though they are smokers," said Pojmann. "They've been wanting to quit for a long time, this gives them the nudge to make that change."

Nicotine Replacement Therapy will be available to both employees and offenders. For employees who want to quit, it will be free. For offenders who want to quit, nicotine replacement therapy products will be available for sale at institution canteens. There are also insurance incentives for employees.

Federal prisons are already tobacco free. Many city and county jails are, as well.