By AMY LINDBLOM
A bill is making its way through the California legislature that would ban the use of all tobacco products by inmates inside all of the state's 33 prisons.
Assemblyman Tim Leslie, R-Roseville, who introduced the bill, calls a ban on tobacco a "great way to save the state money and to help make prison population healthier."
The bill is endorsed by California Correctional Peace Officers Association and the California Correctional Supervisors Organization, unions representing correctional officers and supervisors, as well as American Medical Association Tobacco Control Coalition and the California Medical Association.
The bill would only affect inmates' tobacco use officers and supervisors would still be allowed to smoke in designated areas.
According to a study released by the state Department of Health Services, it costs California taxpayers an average of $3,331 per year per incarcerated smoker in health-care costs versus $475 per year for non-smokers. The costs include hospitalization, ambulance, nursing, prescriptions and doctors' bills, said Colleen Stevens, spokeswoman for Tobacco Coalition at the state health department.
"If the cost of health care was directly borne by smokers who require it, they would be paying an additional $6.16 per pack," Stevens said.
With an estimated 80,000 smokers in California prisons, Leslie said, the state could save $266 million a year on tobacco-related illnesses.
Of the state's 33 prisons, 26 still allow inmates to use tobacco and actually sell tobacco in commissaries.
But most inmates do not have enough money or earn enough money in prison to fund a smoking habit, according to a written release from CCSO.
"Instead of giving Timmy a new pair of shoes, the family buys dad a carton of cigs," said Fort Canutt, CCSO field representative. "Banning all tobacco will relieve inmates' families an added financial burden, and it will make the inmates healthier."
Brian O'Neel, a spokesman at Leslie's Sacramento office, said tobacco products are already banned in county jails as well as the California Department of Corrections placement center.