JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Department of Corrections will ban smoking in prisons this year.
All of the department's facilities will be tobacco-free starting April 1, the News Tribune reported. Staff, offenders, visitors and contractors won't be allowed to possess or use tobacco products inside the department's facilities. Staff and visitors will be able to smoke in a designated area outside the prisons.
Staff on the Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan can receive free smoking-cessation products, educational materials and classes. Inmates will be able to purchase nicotine replacement products in the canteens, and will have access to classes and counseling.
Sales of tobacco products in the canteens will cease in March, officials said.
The decision comes after an inmate sued the department for suffering health effects from secondhand smoke. A federal jury ruled in September that it was cruel and unusual punishment to pair Ecclesiastical Denzel Washington, who suffers from asthma, with a smoker. Washington is serving a life sentence at the Crossroad Correctional Center in Cameron for two murders.
Washington's attorneys said during the trial that most of Missouri's 30,000 inmates smoke. Some inmates testified that they smoked as many as two packs of cigarettes a day. The ruling could save taxpayers money by cutting down on the cost of treating smoking-related inmates, Washington's attorneys said.
State lawmakers proposed legislation in 2011 that would've prohibited tobacco use in a state correctional center or on the surrounding grounds. Lawmakers said it would save millions of dollars in health care costs for treating emphysema, lung cancer and COPD, but the legislation failed to pass.