Smoke-free prisons NSW

Cancer Council NSW supports the NSW Government’s plans to implement a smoke-free policy in NSW prison facilities from August 2015. This policy will help to reduce exposure to secondhand smoke and reduce smoking prevalence among groups with high smoking rates.

  • Smoking rates among prisoners are almost five times higher than for the NSW community1,2
  • Most prisoners who smoke say that they would like to quit, however three-quarters of those who try to quit while in prison say that attempting to quit in prison is harder than it is outside of prison1
  • Smoking bans in prisons have been shown to reduce levels of harmful secondhand smoke3, and recent research suggests an association between prison smoking bans and reduced mortality among prisoners4

Smoke-free prisons in Australia and overseas

A growing number of Australian and overseas jurisdictions are addressing the problems associated with high prisoner smoking through the introduction of comprehensive smoke-free prison policies. In Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland governments have introduced bans and many other Australian states and territories (South Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria) have announced their intention to do the same.

Overseas, Canadian and United States correctional authorities have implemented such policies in their respective Federal custodial facilities. New Zealand has also implemented a comprehensive policy which reportedly saw a “smooth transition, from 67% of the prison population previously being smokers to a situation of a fully smoke-free environment”.5

Early concerns about widespread prisoner unrest in due to smoke-free policies in Canada, the US and New Zealand have not been validated.

Movements toward smoke-free prisons in NSW

On 20 August 2014, the NSW Government announced that it would implement a smoking ban throughout the NSW prisons system from August 2015. This announcement comes after pilots of smoke-free policies in the maximum security Lithgow Correctional Centre and in the new maximum security wing at Cessnock Correctional Centre. The NSW Government has committed to working with prisoners and staff in the lead up to the smoke-free policy.


Indig D et al. 2010. 2009 NSW Inmate Health Survey: key findings report. Sydney: Justice Health. Available at: 

2 Centre for Epidemiology and Evidence. Health Statistics New South Wales. Sydney: NSW Ministry of Health.Available at:

3 Thornley S et al. 2013. Indoor air pollution levels were halved as a result of a national tobacco ban in a New Zealand Prison. Nicotine & Tobacco Research:15(2):343.

4 Binswanger IA et al. 2014. Prison tobacco control policies and deaths from smoking in United States prisons: population based retrospective analysis. British Medical Journal;349:542.

5 Collinson L et al. 2012. New Zealand’s smoke-free prison policy appears to be working well: one year on. The New Zealand Medical Journal;125(1357):164.