Corrections officials quietly reversed a blanket ban on tobacco at prisons this summer and are allowing inmates at work-release centers to have up to 10 packs of cigarettes each.
Department of Corrections officials say they lifted the prohibition on tobacco-related products in the work-release programs because they didn’t want prisoners so close to completing their sentences to have to go back behind bars for breaking the rules.
But the American Lung Association called the move a mistake.
“I’m surprised,” said Brenda Olsen, chief operating officer of the American Lung Association in Florida. Olsen said it’s incumbent on state agencies to “set a good example” by barring or limiting tobacco use.
The switch comes less than two years after the Department of Corrections made all tobacco-related products off-limits at prisons, work camps and work-release centers on Sept. 30, 2011.
“The decision to eliminate smoking and tobacco use was made to reduce the medical cost associated with exposure to tobacco, and eliminate second-hand smoke exposure to nonsmokers,” the agency said in April 2011, when the ban was announced. The ban also applied to prison workers, who are not allowed to bring cigarettes into facilities, and to visitors. Death row prisoners are allowed to buy two packs of smokeless tobacco products a week.