30 Jun, 2015 Last updated: 30 Jun, 2015

VicHealth has applauded the Victorian Government for taking the bold step of introducing a smoking ban in all Victorian correctional facilities from tomorrow (July 1), undoubtedly improving the long-term health of everyone in the prison system.

Download the media release

Since The Tobacco Act 1987 was introduced to Victoria and tax on tobacco led to the establishment of VicHealth, smoking rates have dropped from 34% to 13.3%, however 4500 Victorians still die every year from tobacco-caused disease.

VicHealth CEO Jerril Rechter said the initiative targeted a group of people who were much more likely to be addicted to cigarettes than the general Victorian population. In 2012, 84% of prison entrants were current smokers, which is around five times the proportion of the general community. 

"This initiative will help people who are in the grip of a nicotine addiction and also protect staff and non-smoking prisoners from second-hand smoke.

"Evidence shows almost half (46%) of prisoners want to quit. However the stressful environment and the fact that smoking is so prevalent means quitting in prison can be difficult, so this move will support people who are perhaps more vulnerable to tobacco to quit".

Corrections Victoria Commissioner Jan Shuard said that from 1 July 2015, all tobacco-related products and smoking would be prohibited on prison grounds, including visitor and staff car parks.

"Providing a safe and healthy environment for our staff and prisoners is our highest priority. Our staff has been actively leading the process with an extensive range of activities to ensure they and the prisoners are well prepared. A long lead-in time, coupled with effective support programs, was essential to ensuring a smooth transition to a smokefree environment," she said.

Support programs available for prison staff and prisoners include:

  • free nicotine replacement patches
  • an online information hub
  • access to cessation programs

"Many prisoners have already begun their journey to a healthier lifestyle. As of the end of May 2015, 1283 prisoners have attended Quit programs and have had access to nicotine replacement therapy," Ms Shuard said.

The ban will bring Victoria in line with Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, which have recently implemented similar bans. New South Wales is due to ban smoking in its prisons this August.

Media Contact: Helen Walsh, Senior Media Advisor, 03 9667 1319 or 0435 761 732 or email [email protected].