H/T Rose, Deborah Arnott a few days ago in New Scientist:
A letter from a non-smoking prisoner with lung cancer, distraught because he was forced to share his cell with smokers, convinced me that smoking in prisons is an issue of human rights. If anything, more so than in public places such as pubs and bars because prisoners have no choice about whether to be there or not.
Rights, I always thought, were what everyone had. But in this case, it seems that only one prisoner has any rights, and the rest can all go hang. Only his grievances matter, and theirs not at all.
If (or as is all too likely, when) smoking is banned in prisons, smoking prisoners will quite simply be forced to give up smoking, because there’ll be nowhere else they can go. And since by Arnott’s own admission, some 80% of prisoners are smokers. that’s going to mean cold turkey for more or less the entire prison population at exactly the same time. I can’t think of a more certain recipe for riots than the imposition of what is in effect a further punishment upon them, over and above that handed down by the courts.
She ends by saying:
The cultural change that has taken place everywhere else in society needs to be extended to prisons so that inmates and staff no longer have to put up with the harm caused by second-hand smoke. After it happens, just as with pubs and bars going smoke-free, we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about.
Genuine cultural change is something that happens gradually over time, as individual people choose to change their beliefs and habits. The imposition of draconian smoking bans, whether in prison or in wider society, entails overriding individual choice, thus precluding further genuine cultural change. And that will almost certainly mean that people’s beliefs and habits won’t change at all, except to the extent that they have been coerced.
Is it likely that a prison smoking ban will convert prisoners en masse into ex-smokers? I suspect that, most likely, among the first things prisoners will want after their release will be cigarettes, as well as any number of other creature comforts, however long they have been imprisoned. There will be no enduring cultural change at all. The prisoners will remain unreformed.
And the same is true of the wider society. As soon as smoking bans are relaxed (for example, by introducing the smoking rooms proposed by UKIP) the released smokers will head back inside, and light up, just like the released prisoners.
The introduction of smoking rooms (as well as accompanying non-smoking rooms) will also highlight the cultural division between smokers and antismokers that has emerged since the public smoking ban of 2007. Smokers will stick with other smokers, and antismokers will stick with antismokers. For what had once been a unified culture has broken into two separate (and warring) cultures.
For it is not so much that we have witnessed cultural change over the past 8 years, but rather cultural division. If there has been the appearance of cultural change, it is really only because an illusion of universal consent has been contrived – by completely ignoring smokers.
And as the faint voices of ignored and excluded smokers gradually get heard, it will come to seem both unfair and unnecessary to everybody (bar the worst antismoking zealots) that while non-smokers have an abundance of places where they can meet and be made welcome, smokers have none. This inequity has yet to be recognised only because people like Deborah Arnott have been very successful in maintaining the illusion of a cultural solidarity that no longer exists. It will become impossible to paper over the cracks in the culture.
There will then be a dawning realisation that, instead a smooth cultural change having taken place, there has instead been a cultural catastrophe.