According to the Chancellor of Justice, a plan by the Ministry of Social Affairs to completely ban smoking in prisons at the end of 2016 is unconstitutional.
In a letter to Rannar Vassiljev, the health and labor minister, the Chancellor of Justice said that smoking undoubtedly has negative effects on the health of smokers and those close by, but the right to smoke is constitutionally protected.
The letter said smoking may not only be a harmful habit for prisoners, but a way to combat boredom and lower stress. The lack of support from family and friends may also lead to prisoners feeling the need to smoke.
“A total ban on smoking in prisons may have questionable proportionality, bringing with it unforeseen side effects.”
The ministry is planning to ban smoking for all prisoners, prison visitors and staff from November, 2016. Around 75 percent of all inmates smoke, compared to the national average of 19 percent.
The ministry is also planning to curb indoor smoking everywhere, with a ban on smoking areas being prepared for 2017. Smoking in designated closed rooms will still be allowed.
Editor: J.M. Laats