30 Jun 2011

Inmates go to extreme lengths for nicotine hit

8:43 pm on 30 June 2011

In a last-ditch attempt at a nicotine hit before smoking in prison is banned, some inmates are dunking nicotine replacement patches into cups of tea.

From Friday, cigarettes, tobacco, matches and lighters become contraband and prisoners will be punished if they are caught with the items.

Prisoners flouting the rules face being confined to their cells or losing privileges.

The Department of Corrections has been on a year-long drive towards the ban aimed at improving the health of inmates and staff.

It is also hoped the ban will prevent lighters and matches from being used to set fires or make weapons.

At the start of June, smoking items were taken off the prison canteen purchasing list, but Corrections says there has been no increase in trouble.

The Prison Service's assistant general manager, Brendan Anstiss, says some inmates have gone to extreme lengths to sustain their habit.

"Prisoners are trying to extract in a tea brew nicotine from the nicotine replacement therapy ... The tea probably doesn't taste very good and I doubt it's a very effective approach."

Prison reformers say it's likely to be just the beginning of many attempts by desperate prisoners to flout the new rules.

Dr Anstiss says there is not one prisoner in the system who is unaware of the ban taking effect on Friday.

The Public Service Association says guards are expecting a higher level of tension at work on Friday, given that many inmates haven't sought help to quit smoking.