Smoking remains one of the leading causes of preventable death and disease in Australia. In 2015, tobacco smoking was responsible for one in 10 deaths and estimated to cost the Australian economy $137 billion in healthcare, lost workplace productivity, and in pain and suffering (AIHW, 2020).
Smoking tobacco has been banned in all Australian prisons, except in the Australia Capital Territory and Western Australia. The Northern Territory was the first Australian jurisdiction to implement a full ban in 2013. This was followed by Queensland in 2014, Tasmania, Victoria and, New South Wales in 2015, and South Australia in 2019. Smoking was banned in Western Australian prison buildings in 2008, but prisoners are still allowed to smoke in outdoor areas. The Department of Justice has previously considered implementing a full smoking ban, however this has never come to fruition.
Whilst rates of smoking have decreased significantly in the community, this is not reflected in prisons where over 80 per cent of Western Australian prisoners smoke. The health profile of prisoners is generally poor, and the negative impacts of smoking may have a greater impact. Further, prison staff continue to be at risk of second-hand smoke exposure. There is an argument that there is a public health imperative to ban smoking in prisons in order to protect the health of residents and staff.