State smoking ban has inmates climbing walls

RAYBURN — Their first taste of freedom — and fresh air — will include a long inhalation of smoke from their first cigarette in months.

A number of inmates at the Armstrong County Jail are counting the days to their release, not only so they can be free, but so they can resume smoking. Since a statewide smoking ban went into effect Sept. 11, many jail inmates have switched to smokeless tobacco. For some, it was a first.

One such inmate is Mary McDonald who said she is one of four women on her block to begin using smokeless or chewing tobacco.

“I never used it (smokeless tobacco) before,” McDonald said. “It was gross at first, but I got used to it. I guess it’s working, it satisfies my nicotine cravings.”

This is McDonald’s second week of using smokeless tobacco. Being without a smoke for that long, however, isn’t an incentive for her to quit the habit.

“The first thing I’m going to do when I get out is get a pack of smokes,” she said, “and light up, and ditch the smokeless (tobacco). I have 87 days left on my sentence.”

McDonald said she used to smoke a name brand cigarette, but while in jail — before the smoking ban — she learned to use cigarette papers and loose tobacco to roll her own because the roll-your-own cigarette supplies were considerably less expensive than the $6 a pack her name brand cigarettes cost. However, McDonald finds the cost of smokeless tobacco, which ranges from $2.75 to $5.75 a can, depending on the brand, is not much cheaper than name brand cigarettes.

McDonald said she uses a regular flavor smokeless tobacco, but three of her fellow female inmates have opted for a menthol flavored brand.

While smokeless tobacco eliminates the need for ashtrays, inmates now carry small plastic or paper cups in which to spit. Earlier, warden David Hogue cautioned prisoners that if spitting on the floors or walls becomes a problem, he would take away the smokeless tobacco privilege as well. So far the warden has no complaints.

A male inmate, Sean Shetler, said he has used smokeless tobacco before and is pretty used to the habit, although he’d rather smoke.

“It’s no fun,” Shetler said, “but we can’t do anything about it. I only have two weeks left on my sentence anyhow. The first thing I’m going to do when I get out is light up. Smokeless helps suppress the urge for nicotine, but it’s not the same.”

Shetler said he does maintenance work for the prison and sometimes goes outside the walls. Even there, however, he can’t smoke.

“You can’t buy cigarettes in the commissary, so even if you’re out on a work detail you can’t smoke,” he said. “That’s not fair because the guys who are on work release get to smoke while they are out, but I guess that’s the way it is. It bums a lot of people out.

Shetler added that many of the inmates he knows share his sentiments.

“They’re not going to quit smoking just because they can’t have any in here,” he said.

Hogue said that reaction to the smoking ban went surprisingly well.

“The day the ban went into effect, we had a situation here where an inmate escaped and ultimately ended up dead,” he said. “That threw everyone here off balance, so I guess the smoking ban wasn’t a major issue. I know some prisoners don’t like it but really, we’ve had few complaints and the ban is going surprisingly well. We stopped selling smoking tobacco in the commissary about two weeks prior to the ban, so some of the inmates were already out before the ban started.



5 Responses to “State smoking ban has inmates climbing walls”

  1. These antitobacco bastards are serious. They’ve banned tobacco in old folks’ homes as well, where no possible good could happen.Maybe an old smoker makes liiars out of them amd must be punisned.

  2. Isn’t there something in the Constitution about “cruel and unusual punishment”?

  3. A prisoner tries to escape after the ban begins and winds up dead, the others are counting the seconds till they get released so they can get real smokes again, and don’t protest because the message is clear, protest and die — a whole new meaning to the claim that smoking can kill you — by getting SHOT if you do — and the anti-smokers say the ban isn’t much of an issue ? Typical anti-smoker reasoning. It’s not for the health of the guards nor the prisoners they do this. THE ADMINISTRATION can’t smoke or is anti-smoking, and cannot stand to see the prisoners enjoying tobacco when they no longer can. Such ignorameousness ! Especially since Second Hand Tobacco Smoke is NOT a Statistically Significant Health Risk to others. PLUS, there is an alternative now too. Electronic Cigarettes ! Google it – steve hartwell

  4. Smoking is the least of all dangers facing an inmate.
    He can be raped, wounded in a prison brawl, killed by another inmate; he can lose his wife, children and friends; even under the best of circumstances, his future is bleak.
    And we want to turn this guy into a sweet, healthy-conscious New Ager?
    This is like telling a starving man to stay away from non-organically
    grown produce.
    The anti-smoking lobby, mixing lofty ideals and authoritarian impulses, as most crusaders do, want inmates to take programs to help them break the habit.
    Why would a method that often fails when applied to well-adjusted citizens be successful in the tense environment of prison life?
    Depriving inmates of cigarettes is an imposition of middle class values on a population that is largely under-educated and thus, as statistics show, more likely to smoke.
    Inmates are paying their dues and their cell is their home. How far can the state invade someone’s privacy?
    And what’s next? A ban on fantisies and masturbation?
    Can prisons be transformed into peaceful, healthy havens? Probably not.
    If inmates receive unnecessary, cruel treatment, the backlash might be worse than whiffs of second-hand smoke.

    Thomas Laprade

  5. Cruel and unusal punishment. Cruel is what one of those inmates did to my sister. You must be a smoker. They gave up lifes amenities and luxuries when they committed thier crimes.

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