Schwarzenegger Signs Prison Tobacco Ban Into Law
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) on Monday signed into law a bill (AB 384) that will ban tobacco use among inmates, employees and visitors at state correctional facilities, the Sacramento Bee reports (Benson, Sacramento Bee, 9/28). The legislation, sponsored by Assembly member Tim Leslie (R-Tahoe City), will prohibit tobacco products from being sold in prison stores or sent to the state's 161,000 inmates. The ban also will apply to inmates at California Youth Authority facilities. Smoking already is prohibited in eight of the state's 32 prisons that serve as medical facilities or as reception centers for incoming prisoners.
The health care budget for inmates increased to $975 million this year from $566 million in 2000. Leslie said that the bill could save the state as much as $280 million annually in smoking-related medical costs (California Healthline, 8/25). Currently, about 50% of the state's prisoners smoke, according to Leslie. He added, "For those that don't (smoke), it seems quite unfair that they have to breathe other people's smoke."
Opponents of the measure said that although the state will save on health care costs under the new law, it will lose about $1 million in tobacco tax revenue and $370,000 in sales tax revenue from the loss of $5.4 million in annual tobacco sales at prison canteens. In addition, the Friends Committee on Legislation of California said that in the three prisons where tobacco use already is banned -- Wasco State Prison, the California Men's Colony and the California Medical Facility -- it is becoming the "No. 1 contraband item" because it can be purchased at low cost outside prisons and resold several times inside the facilities. The committee also has objected to the law because it does not offer inmates assistance to transition from smoking with the help of nicotine patches and gum.
The law will take effect in July 2005 (Sacramento Bee, 9/28). With the implementation of the law, California will become the 18th state to ban tobacco use in all prisons (California Healthline, 8/25).