Three men walking towards fence gate

Smoking in prison

Prisoners have long had one the highest smoking rates, with around 74% of prison entrants reporting to be current smokers. Today however, most correctional facilities are smoke-free in Australia.

Visit the links below to learn more about the rules regarding smoking in prisons in your state or territory, and what quit support is available.

Quit support for prisoners

Trying to quit smoking in prison has its own unique challenges, but many prisoners have identified that quitting smoking gave them a sense of accomplishment and can be a positive and transferable skill.

Be proactive—if you are going to prison, consider quitting before your sentence begins. The challenge is continuing to stay quit on release from prison. Talk to your loved ones before you are released to see if they would like to reduce or quit their smoking too.

One half (50%) of prison entrants who are current smokers report that they would like to quit smoking.1 Support may be available for prisoners, including access to free or subsidised nicotine replacement therapy in some prisons, specialised quit programs or health and recreation programs.

Every prison is different, so it’s important to speak to your prison nurse, medical officer, or sport and recreation officer about what support is available in your facility.

There are a lot of things people can do when they’re in prison that will help alleviate boredom and provide a distraction from cravings. Most correctional facilities have gyms, recreation activities and sports. You can read, try art or writing, do puzzles, cook a meal, go for a brisk walk, or watch television.

Justice New South Wales’ Trash the Ash brochure has a range of tips and strategies for people trying to quit smoking in prison. The booklet is also available in Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese versions, downloadable from the Justice New South Wales website.

Advice for friends and family

Support from family and friends can make a big difference to someone trying to quit smoking, especially in prison. In states and territories with smoke-free correctional facilities, rules often extend to visitors about whether tobacco and smoking accessories can be brought on site. Check the state and territory website links above for local information.

Justice New South Wales developed a Factsheet for Family and Friends in the lead up to its ban on smoking in prisons. It outlines a number of strategies for how to support prisoners on their quitting journey.

Support after prison

Transition to life on the outside may present particularly tough challenges—especially for someone trying to quit smoking. The freedom to easily access cigarettes and the stress of having to adjust to the pressures of daily life can certainly test someone’s commitment to stay quit.

After release, there are still plenty of support options:
  • You can call the Quitline on 13 7848 to speak to a quit smoking counsellor
  • Download the free My QuitBuddy app to track your progress and connect with other people on their quit smoking journey
  • You can purchase nicotine replacement therapy from pharmacies and most supermarkets
  • Or talk to your GP or health practitioner about a prescription for nicotine replacement therapy at a subsidised cost.

1 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2015. The health of Australia’s prisoners 2015. Cat. no. PHE 207. Canberra: AIHW. (Note: NSW provided data on prison entrants only)