Smoker lighting up a cigarette.
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Smoking in prison is a 'human right'

It is estimated that up to 80% of inmates smoke and under new government plans it is set to be banned, with a trial period to be introduced in the next 12 months.

The move by the prison service is thought to be linked to the threat of legal action by prisoners and staff who have suffered the effects of passive smoking.

Speaking to the Today programme , Ben Gunn, a commentator on prisoner reform, said: "By and large, criminality isn't a rational choice, it's desperate people doing desperate acts. The smoking policy is a purely vindictive, petty, small-minded policy, but I actually support this policy in a complicated roundabout way, in that this is the least political generation of prisoners.... Banning smoking, which is the last bastion of smokers, will give prisoners an issue in which to convalesce and organise."

Mark Johnson, founder of charity User Voice, said "smoking is a human right" and thinks plans for a total ban is wrong and "bewildering".

"We work in a number of prisons around the country and already in communal spaces smoking is banned. The only place you can smoke is actually in your cell."

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 20 September 2013.

  • 20 Sep 2013