Electronic Cigarettes Go to Jail

It seems that electronic cigarettes are really reaching every facet of society now. Most recently, e-cigs were spotted behind bars as the Russell County Jail in Alabama started selling them to inmates on August 6. Of course, this isn’t the first time electronic cigarettes were available for prisoners. Earlier this month, it was reported that a Macon County Jail in Tennessee was going smoke-free and offering inmates e-cigs to get through nicotine withdrawals.

The e-cigs available in the Macon County jail were designed specifically for use behind bars. Inmates can purchase the disposable electronic cigarettes for $13.50 each, while inmates at the Russell County Jail are paying $18 each. Sheriff Heath Taylor says the higher price tag will benefit the jail by yielding a $4-5 profit for each e-cigarette an inmate purchases. Taylors hopes the e-cig availability will reduce problems with contraband tobacco products.

Interestingly, an Illinois news report on this story features a unique angle. The article mentions that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that e-cigarettes “appear to be less harmful than traditional cigarettes.” This is a huge step forward for ecigs after the CDC has previously been hesitant to offer any supportive statements. Maybe this is evidence that officials behind the CDC are starting to see the benefits of e-cigarettes after all.

So far, inmates seem to be pleased with the disposable e-cigarettes and they are already starting to buy them on a regular basis. Russell County inmate Tony Brown said, “Everyone comes to jail and they can’t smoke, so stress levels are up there. It seems to help so far, it’s been 3 to 4 days, but there’s a lot of them in there and guys seem to like them.”

In Macon County, the new e-cig option will be used as a fundraiser. Sheriff Mark Gammons told reporters, “I hope I can make $45,000 a year and that profit will be turned in to help pay these guards for being understaffed, underpaid.” It’s possible that electronic cigarettes could be a successful way for jails to raise money to offer guards and officers higher salaries and better benefits. It’s a great idea in theory, but only time will tell if it actually works as well as Gammons hopes.

Perhaps these two jails are just the beginning and more inmates around the country will have access to electronic cigarettes in the future. It could certainly cut down on tension and drama if nicotine-reliant inmates had access to e-cigarettes during their first few days or weeks in prison.

Do you think offering e-cigarettes to inmates is a good way to raise money for the county jails?

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Author Focus: David Fitchburg
David is a 5 year vet of the e-cig scene. He started smoking in his late teens, his habit got pretty bad and the birth of his daughter really made him think that he should consider quitting tobacco. He tried everything with little success. Then in 2008 he discovered e-cigarettes, started vaping and has never looked back. Read Full Profile >