Right to fresh air and safety

The government’s ban on smoking in prisons has been ruled unlawful.

Someone with a better understanding of the law than I have might be able to explain why.

I’d have thought the right for other prisoners and staff to breathe fresh air trumped that of smokers’. The danger to prisoners and staff from fire would be another justification for the ban.

The legal ruling appears to be academic anyway.

Corrections chief Ray Smith says prisons will remain smoke-free.

Law changes that came into force in March make it clear that tobacco products are unauthorised items and therefore it is against the law to bring them into a prison. They also make it an offence to smoke tobacco or any other substance inside a prison.

These amendments also address the issue of prisoners challenging penalties handed out to them for possessing tobacco products ruling out compensation for them.

Implementing smokefree prisons was always going to be a serious challenge and it has gone incredibly well and without major incident. We are the first national prison service to achieve this.

Since the introduction of smokefree prisons on 1 July 2011 our prison staff report a better and healthier work environment for both themselves and prisoners. Independent research has confirmed that air quality in our prisons has improved, and there has been a significant drop in fires.

For many sentenced and remand prisoners giving up smoking has led to a positive improvement in their lives, with better health and savings in money spent on tobacco products.

The ban was preceded by an extensive 12 month campaign led by Corrections and supported by the Ministry of Health and the Quit Group to encourage smoking cessation for prisoners and staff. This gave prisoners and staff the opportunity, support and motivation to attempt to stop or reduce their smoking prior to 1 July 2011. Many took up this opportunity and gave up smoking early.

Since July 2011 prisoners have been able to spend more money on phone cards and increase their contact with family and friends. They have also been engaging more with staff and available activities.

We have been able to provide a healthier, safer environment for staff and prisoners.

Better work environment, improved air quality, fewer fires, more money to spend on phone cards and a healthier, safer environment are all very good reasons for the ban to continue.

8 Responses to Right to fresh air and safety

  1. I haven’t read this decision, but the first one was pretty much on the basis that Parliament hadn’t given the Head of Corrections the power to ban smoking in cells. Indeed it was clear in the Smokefree Environments Act that parliament intended prisoners to be able to continue to smoke in their cells. In short, the court said it’s not the job of the Head of Corrections to over-rule Parliament.

    (The first case dealt with rule changes around smoking, the second case with rule changes around possession of tobacco etc.)


  2. tiffany267 says:

    Very interesting. I wonder if prisoners could sue each other for harm done by second-hand smoke? LOL


  3. Viv K says:

    What about the rights of workers in Sky city casino to breathe smoke free air? The NZ Herald of June 7th reported that the Gambling Commission had approved 2 applications to allow Sky city to create smoker friendly areas. Nigel Morrison said smoking laws in Australia were more attractive to gamblers from China and Malaysia. He is quoted as saying ‘If we could allow them to smoke we could generate a lot more income’. Will Sky city’s drive for profit trump their worker’s rights to a smoke free work environment?


  4. homepaddock says:

    I’ve always thought the best argument for smoke free environments is staff health and safety. No workers should have to work in an enclosed area where people smoke.

    Do smoker friendly areas mean something similar to smokers’ rooms in hospitals where smokers go to smoke, or does it mean they’ll be allowed to smoke where staff and other customers are?


  5. Armchair Critic says:

    I expect it would be covered by ACC, so the right to sue is unavailable.


  6. Viv K says:

    That isn’t clear in the media reports. The Cancer society is suing Sky city over the casino’s interpretation of ‘open’ areas for smoking inside the Sky city complex. I hope CEO Nigel Morrison doesn’t ignore the health of his workers in his quest for profits from Asian gamblers who smoke. As smoking has become more regulated in the English speaking world the tobacco companies have targeted Asian countries. Surely there are no longer smokers rooms in hospitals? I remember that in the 80s Dunedin hospital had black and white tv in the smokers lounge and colour tv in the smoke free one.


  7. TraceyS says:

    I think they have to go out to the foyer or on the street which is a charming look for a hospital.


  8. Viv K says:

    A visiting lecturer expressed suprise on the open nature of our prostitution industry, he mistook office workers on cigarette breaks for sex workers.


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