Between 2009 and 2011, the sale of tobacco within the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) was reduced by 49 percent, concurrent with the introduction of smoking cessation programs by health care providers, the introduction of nicotine replacement lozenges in prison commissaries, the rise in cost of tobacco products, and the end of tobacco sales to inmates under 18. In 2012, NJDOC leadership made a decision to become entirely tobacco free, including on facility grounds (a policy that led to the depletion of the tobacco stocked in the prison commissaries by December 2012). As a result, tobacco sales decreased by 68 percent between 2006 and 2012, from an average of 107 to 34 products per inmate per year.
Researchers at several New Jersey institutions examined mortality rates in the total population of inmates and in a subgroup of inmates identified as having special mental health needs from January 2005 through June 2014, encompassing the period in which tobacco use was significantly reduced and then eliminated. They found that the mortality rate for people identified as having special mental health needs decreased by 48 percent, from an average of 676 per 100,000 population over the eight-year period before the ban to 353 per 100,000 in the 18 months after the ban. In contrast, the mortality rate of those not on the special needs roster remained relatively flat.
"Policies … that restrict or eliminate access to tobacco in the environment are effective strategies for reducing tobacco-related mortality in the general population," the researchers state. "This study in a correctional setting suggests that similar policies should be tried with subpopulations with mental illness in other settings as well."
For more information, see the Psychiatric News article “Smoking Cessation for Patients Called an Urgent Priority.”