Assembly Votes To Approve Inmate Tobacco Ban
The Assembly on Monday voted 64-4 to approve a bill (AB 384) that would prohibit tobacco products from being sold in prison canteens or being sent to the state's 161,000 inmates as part of an effort to reduce the cost of inmate health care, the San Jose Mercury News reports (Gladstone, San Jose Mercury News, 1/27). The tobacco ban also would apply to inmates at California Youth Authority facilities but not to prison staff. The health care budget for inmates increased to $975 million this year from $566 million in 2000. Assembly member Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City), the bill's sponsor, said that the bill could save the state as much as $280 million per year in smoking-related inmate medical costs. Smoking is already prohibited in eight of the state's 32 prisons that serve as medical facilities or as reception centers for incoming prisoners (California Healthline, 1/14). The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration (San Jose Mercury News, 1/27). If enacted, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2005 (AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/27). Enactment of the bill would make California the 18th state to ban tobacco use in all prisons (California Healthline, 1/14).
Assembly member Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles) voted against the measure and said that inmates could suffer withdrawal, adding that they should be provided with smoking cessation aides, including nicotine gum or patches (AP/Contra Costa Times, 1/27). Assembly member Doug La Malfa (R-Richvale) said, "Just one simple thing you need to remember. It's prison!" (Vogel/Jones, Los Angeles Times, 1/27). Leslie said that the bill was not meant to punish inmates, adding, "We see this as a way of helping [prisoners], that, if they can survive quitting this habit, then maybe they can reform their lives in other ways, too" (San Jose Mercury News, 1/27). Russ Heimrich, a spokesperson for the Department of Corrections, said, "Health care is expensive and everybody knows that smoking contributes to heart disease, emphysema, all sorts of things, and, as we have an aging population, prevention becomes more important. Smoking is one of those things we can actually target" (Los Angeles Times, 1/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.