Nicotine-deprived prisoners are paying as much as $300
for pouches of black market tobacco, the New Zealand Drug
A 50g pouch - which normally retails for about $50 at dairies
and supermarkets - was fetching up to six times that amount
inside prisons, according to information supplied to the
The country's prisons went smoke-free on July 1, 2011.
The group's executive director, Ross Bell, told the Otago
Daily Times that despite the smoking ban, "it still remains
that people want to smoke, and as we see the world over, as
long as there is demand for a drug then someone will be
willing to supply it.
"Because it is a prison environment, that black market will
always be a bit higher."
Boredom was a feature of prison life, and partly explained
the appeal of contraband, such as tobacco, cannabis and
He praised the Department of Correction's handling of the
ban, including assisting tobacco smokers with nicotine
replacement therapies (NRT) such as patches or lozenges.
Corrections Services director of offender health Bronwyn
Donaldson said the implementation of the smoke-free policy
had gone extremely well and "without major incident".
"While some prisoners expressed their concerns at having to
quit smoking, the vast majority accepted the change and saw
it as an opportunity to kick the habit with some good support
The department had also recorded a reduction in incendiary
incidents in prisons. The month before the policy was
introduced there were 18 fires and arson-related incidents
This compared with four in the month after the policy was
introduced, and only one the month after that. This change
was largely attributed to the banning of cigarette lighters
as part of the smokefree move.
A study of air quality at Auckland Prison between May and
August last year found it improved 57% following the ban.
"Anecdotal reports show fewer prisoners and staff have
presented with smoking-associated issues such as asthma,
other respiratory illnesses and colds since the ban was
implemented," she said.
Corrections Services regional manager, Southern, Ian Bourke
said when the smoking ban came into place, "we anticipated
that some prisoners would try and trade cigarettes or
tobacco, and prisoners would put a higher dollar or trade
value on these items".
Prisoners' money was managed by Corrections through trust
accounts, with strong oversight on any transactions, he said.
"Unfortunately, prisoners may get those on the outside to
make payments to an associated third party.
"We put a lot of effort into stopping contraband entering our
prisons and we are always looking out for 'trade'
If any prisoner was found to be undertaking this activity,
they would face internal charges, Mr Bourke said.