Prisoners are to be handed free vaping kits as jails in Scotland go tobacco-free.
Cigarettes will be banned in all prisons from November 30th to bring them in line with UK law, which forbids smoking in public places.
Until now, prisoners have been allowed to smoke in their cells and some communal areas.
The new £200,000 initiative is part of a country-wide programme to support inmates giving up tobacco. E-cigarettes will be given to all prisoners free of charge at the start of November, to give them time to make the switch before the new rules come into force.
Plans to ban tobacco in prison were announced last year amid growing concern about the health risks of passive smoking.
At present, 80 per cent of the prison population are still smoking cigarettes in Scotland and it is hoped the vaping kits will prevent unrest and even riots which has occurred in a string of jails in England when tobacco was taken away.
Scottish prisoners will be given the e-cigarettes for free for the first two months and after that will be able to buy the kits at a discounted rate until April. After that time, inmates will have to pay the normal price if they want to continue to vape.
Last year the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) announced plans to make prisons smoke-free after a major study on tobacco use in prisons led by the University of Glasgow revealed high levels of exposure to second-hand smoke.
SPS spokesman Tom Fox was quoted by Scotland’s Daily Record as saying: “We recognise the difficult journey for some of those in our care during this transition and are planning to support them by giving the option to take up a rechargeable vaping device (RVD) introductory pack at no cost to the individual.
“The introduction of RVDs is an interim process to help those with deep-seated habits to break this and save money for the public purse in the long term.
“While stopping smoking and nicotine consumption completely will always be the best option, RVDs will help those in our care to cope without access to tobacco while in custody.
“The use of RVDs is common within the community. The RVDs chosen recognise the specific security measures for use in a custodial environment.”
He added in a report by the BBC: “After the 30th of November, there will be nowhere in our prisons where anyone will be able to smoke.
“People in the community who are giving up cigarettes, still have the opportunity to smoke in parts of the community. The people in our care won’t be able to smoke at all.
“We are recognising the unique nature of that environment by providing the support we are.”
The Scottish prison service is following in the footsteps of jails in England and Wales where cigarettes are already banned and 33,000 prisoners have already made the switch to vaping.
So successful is the move to allow inmates to use e-cigarettes, prisons reported earlier this year that they are making 65,000 sales a week in vaping equipment to inmates desperate for a nicotine fix.
Commenting on these proposals, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, said.
“Second-hand smoke poses an unacceptably high risk to the health of prisoners, staff and visitors.
There are very high rates of smoking among those in custody. The staff working in Scotland’s prisons should be afforded the same protection as people working in other professions.