According to University of Stirling, levels of second-hand smoke in Scotland’s prisons fell by more than 80% in the week after smoking was banned.
Published in the British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control, the study is the first of its kind to examine second-hand smoke and smoking (SHS) of tobacco concentrations across an entire prison estate where smoking is prohibited in all establishments.
Positive impact of smoke-free policy
Led by Stirling’s Institute of Social Marketing (ISM), the study, involving the University of Glasgow and conducted in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service, confirms the positive impact of the smoke-free policy, introduced in November 2018, on the air quality within 15 of Scotlands prisons.
Study leader Dr Sean Semple, Associate Professor at the ISM, which is part of the broader Tobacco in Prisons Study (TIPS) said: “We collected more than 110,000 minutes of second-hand smoke measurements from across the prison estate in the week that the smoking ban was introduced – and we compared these readings with measurements taken as part of the TIPS research in 2016.
“Our study shows improvements in the levels of second-hand smoke in every prison in Scotland, with an average fall of 81%. This is similar to the scale of change observed when pubs became smoke-free in 2006 – and the concentrations of fine particles in prison air has now reduced to levels similar to those measured in outdoor air in Scotland.
“This research confirms that exposure to second-hand smoke has been drastically reduced and, ultimately, this will have a positive impact on the health of prison staff and prisoners.”
The smoking ban
Since 2006, smoking has been banned in most enclosed public spaces in Scotland, however, prisoners continued to be permitted to smoke in their cells, with the doors closed. This situation changed on 30 November 2018, when smoking was banned in all prisons in Scotland.
The team have been using air quality monitors to measure fine particulate matter, which is widely used as a proxy measurement for SHS, in each prison since 2016 and did so again during the week when the ban came into force – allowing observation of the periods immediately before and after the introduction of the ban.
The results showed that airborne levels of fine particles declined substantially in every prison between 2016 and December 2018, the first full working day following the introduction of the ban. The overall median reduction in particle concentrations was 81% across all prisons.
Debbie Sigerson, Organisational Lead for Tobacco in NHS Health Scotland said:
“We are delighted that the results from this study, early on in the implementation of smoke free prisons, shows that one factor that impacts on that harm – exposure to second hand smoke – has significantly reduced.
“Everyone has a right to live in a smoke free Scotland and today’s results show that we are one step further along the way to getting there.”