Smoking Ban in New Jersey Jails Drastically Reduced Deaths of Inmates with Mental Illness

October 17, 2016 · Posted in Comorbidities, Risk Factors · Comment 

smoking ban reduces deaths

Policy changes by the New Jersey Department of Corrections drastically reduced the availability of tobacco products in New Jersey jails between 2005 and 2014. Prison commissaries reduced their stock of tobacco, prices increased, sales to minors were banned, and facilities were designated tobacco-free (including for staff and visitors).

Along with this reduction in the availability of tobacco products, the Department of Corrections also introduced smoking cessation programs, began offering nicotine replacement lozenges in commissaries, and increased treatment for tobacco use.

A surprise consequence of the decision to go tobacco-free was a drastic reduction of deaths among prison inmates with mental illness. The mortality rate for these inmates dropped by 48%. In contrast, the mortality rate for inmates without mental illness remained flat before and after the tobacco ban.

People with mental illness are at increased risk of mortality, particularly from cardiovascular illnesses. Now it seems that eliminating tobacco use can go a long way toward improving health and reducing mortality for these people.