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Another of Tobacco Control's lies..

Deborah Arnott, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health, said there was no evidence to support claims that depriving prisoners of tobacco could lead to riots.

“Prisons all around the world have gone smoke-free with few problems and, in the UK, all high-security psychiatric facilities have already gone smoke-free, as have prisons in the Isle of Man and Guernsey, without any trouble,” she said.[1]

Yet every time the idea of a ban is raised in the media, the headlines inevitably focus on fears of unrest and riots, rather than the health and wellbeing of inmates and staff.

The hypothesis that depriving smokers of tobacco could destabilise prisons may sound plausible, but there is little evidence to back it up.[2]

Prisons: Smoking To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, how many incidents of (a) violence and (b) disturbance there has been in each prison since the implementation of the smoking ban.

Answered by: Rory Stewart The information requested in 149636 could only be obtained at disproportionate cost as the implementation of smoke-free prisons was rolled out at different times.

An analysis was carried out earlier this year on the impact of the tobacco ban on Prison Safety and Security. There is no conclusive evidence of an increase in violence in prisons attributable to the tobacco ban. No additional security measures have been implemented in any prison following the implementation of the tobacco ban.[3]

Dec 2019 - Prison violence in general in the UK

Prison violence at an 'unprecedented' high as the number of attacks by inmates on officers soars by 300 in just a year

  • 1,838 recorded incidents of physical assaults in 2017 compared to 1,529 in 2016
  • Yorkshire had one of biggest rises with 380 incidents in 2016, then 542 last year
  • In London and Thames Valley, it rose from 695 attacks in 2016 to 884 a year later
  • Union: 'Levels of violence against prison officers are at unprecedented levels'[4]

May 2018 - Leicester, England

Leicester Prison experienced a sharp rise in violence – including assaults on staff – after inmates were banned from smoking, according to an inspection report.

The Welford Road jail became strictly non-smoking on July 24 last year.[5]

Apr 2018 - Scotland

Not an actual riot as such, but...

CONS could be given jigsaws and colouring books in a barmy bid to wean them off cigarettes.

Stress balls and relaxation CD’s are also being considered by jail chiefs ahead of the smoking ban coming into force in November.[6]

Jan 2018 - HMP Erlestoke, Wiltshire, England

A ban on smoking and short-staffing led to a prison riot with inmates causing "many thousands of pounds worth of damage", a court has heard.


Mr Welling *[prosecuting]* said problems began after a national prison smoking ban was being trialled at the site.

He said: "As you can imagine it caused tensions to rise among prisoners as it was, frankly, a very unpopular move.<ref'Smoking ban and staff shortage led to Wiltshire prison riot', court told -</ref>

November 2017 - General

Record levels of violence and self-harm among prisoners are feared to be being driven partly by a smoking ban in 66 jails in England and Wales.

More than half of prisons in England and Wales forbid prisoners from smoking in a move that has led to tobacco being sold on the black market inside for as much as £150 an ounce.

The new psychoactive substance Spice, which has swept through the prison system, is said to be much cheaper for inmates to buy than tobacco in no-smoking jails.

Prisoners have also turned to Christianity after discovering that pages from the Bible are perfect for rolling cigarettes made of tobacco or mixtures of other substances including tea leaves.[7]

September 2017 - HMP Liverpool (formerly Walton Gaol)

Rioting prisoners have caused two days of chaos at Walton prison .

Inmates are reported to have set fires and carried out protests on anti-suicide netting during the trouble.

Two prisoners were injured during the disturbances - said to have been sparked by the attempted enforcement of a smoking ban.[8]

August 2017 - HMP Birmingham, England

On Twitter, a West Midlands based criminology lecturer claimed the prison's Wing A was "severely damaged" as inmates were heard chanting "we want burn" - which is prison slang for tobacco.[9]

August 2017 - HMP Haverigg, Cumbria, England

Prisoners staged a nine-hour riot and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage - after they were banned from smoking.

Inmates smashed sinks, flooded cells and destroyed TVs at the Category C HMP Haverigg as they became the latest prison to be subject to the smoking ban.[10]

July 2017, HMP Hewell, Worcestershire, England

A VIOLENT protest involving 30 inmates was staged at Hewell prison over the weekend, in response to a new smoking ban, which comes into effect today (July 24).[11]

July 2017, HMP Parc, Wales

A rise in the number of violent and self harm incidents at Parc Prison could be linked to the smoking ban, a review has found.[12]

May 2017 - HMP Drake Hall, Staffordshire, England

Some 'nicotine addict' prisoners became violent and staged sit-ins knowing they would be moved to another jail where they can smoke freely.

Inmates in Drake Hall Women's Prison went berserk and sat on the roof after a ban was tested there in May, one insider said.


'Within the first week of the shop stopping selling it there was a riot. Loads of prisoners refused to go back to their cells and it was mayhem.

'There were women screaming and shouting, sitting on the roofs of blocks. After it calmed down a lot of those involved were transferred, probably to prisons where they can smoke.[13]

January 2016 - HMP Cardiff, Wales

There has been an increase in the use of the synthetic drug spice at HMP Cardiff after prisoners were banned from smoking, according to a report.

Nicotine patches and tea leaves were also smoked instead of nicotine after the prison banned cigarettes in 2016, the Independent Monitoring Board said.

It said assaults against staff increased by 160% in 2015-16, while attacks on prisoners rose by 15%.[14]

June 2015 - Melbourne, Australia

Police armed with tear gas and water cannons were on Tuesday evening still attempting to contain a riot that broke out at a maximum security prison in Victoria earlier in the day, after prisoners became angered by the introduction of a smoking ban.[15]

June 2015 - Victoria, Australia

Prison overcrowding and inadequate fencing contributed to Victoria's largest prison riot, which was sparked when a canteen ran out of tobacco ahead of the state-wide smoking ban, a review has found.[16]

June 2014 - Queensland, Australia

ACCUSED drug cartel go-between Peter Nash has now joined other prisoners who claim they were bashed by riot police during a May 5 protest at Wacol's Arthur Gorrie prison after protest against smoking bans.[17]

September 2009 - Kentucky, America

[about a riot] Outlawing smoking can sometimes do as much harm as good when it comes to controlling the inmate population, he said. Often, that will create a black market in which a pack of cigarettes could be sold for hundreds of dollars.[18]

July 2008 - Ashworth (prisoner's) Hospital, Merseyside, England

Solicitor Richard Nicholas, whose Ashworth clients include child killer Brady, said: "The smoking ban didn't go down too well with a lot of the patients.

"So for ex-prisoners who are used to being allowed to light up to come in and be told they can't smoke it was a real shock.

"They just couldn't handle it and vented their fury in the form of a rooftop protest."[19]

February 2008 - Quebec

Another riot happened in February 2008, apparently triggered by a smoking ban at the facility.[20]


  1. Whitehall ‘knew about health risks’ to prison warders as anti-smokers push for total ban - The Guardian
  2. I don’t predict a riot: jail smoking ban need not spell unrest - New Scientist
  3. Prisons: Smoking:Written question - 149636 -
  4. Prison violence at 'unprecidented' high - Daily Mail
  5. Ban on smoking and availability of spice blamed for rise in violence at Leicester Prison - Leicester Mercury
  6. and colouring books to replace cigarettes for cons when smoking ban hits Scots prisons - Scottish Sun
  7. Rise in violence and self-harm as inmates struggle with tobacco ban - The Times
  8. Two days of riots at Walton prison sees inmates 'set fire to cells' - Liverpool Echo
  9. 'We want burn!' Rioting prisoners 'demand tobacco' at Birmingham prison with 'one wing lost' as anti-riot teams prepare to storm jail - Mirror
  10. Prison trashed in nine-hour riot after cigarette ban - and warders warn of more problems to come - Mirror
  11. - 30 inmates, believed to be under the influence of 'prison hooch', staged the violent protest at HMP Hewell on Saturday - Bromsgrove Advertiser
  12. - Parc Prison: Rise in violence since smoking ban - BBC
  13. Prisoners are RIOTING over a Government ban on smoking in jails being rolled out across the country - Daily Mail
  14. Spice use rise after HMP Cardiff smoking ban - BBC
  15. Prisoners riot at Melbourne's Ravenhall remand centre over smoking ban - The Guardian
  16. Victoria prison riot sparked by tobacco shortage, compounded by overcrowding: report - The Age
  17. Prisoners 'bashed' during smoking ban riot - Sunshine Coast Daily
  18. Smoking policy relaxed at site of Ky. prison riot - Newsday
  19. Patients riot at Moors Murderer's hospital - The Telegraph
  20. Two inmates dead after fire, riot at Quebec prison - CTV News