E-cigarette use in prisons with recently established smokefree policies: a qualitative interview study with people in custody in Scotland


Brown A, O’Donnell R, Eadie D, Ford A, Mitchell D, Hackett A, Sweeting H, Bauld L & Hunt K (2021) E-cigarette use in prisons with recently established smokefree policies: a qualitative interview study with people in custody in Scotland. Nicotine and Tobacco Research, 23 (6), pp. 939-946.

Introduction E-cigarettes were one measure introduced to help people in custody (PiC) to prepare for and cope with implementation of comprehensive smokefree policies in Scottish prisons. Our earlier study explored experiences of vaping when e-cigarettes were first introduced and most participants were dual tobacco and e-cigarette users. Here we present findings of a subsequent study of vaping among a different sample of PiC when use of tobacco was prohibited in prison, and smokefree policy had become the norm. Methods Twenty eight qualitative interviews were conducted with PiC who were current or former users of e-cigarettes in prison, 6-10 months after implementation of a smokefree policy. Data were managed and analysed using the framework approach. Results PiC reported that vaping helped with mandated smoking abstinence. However, findings suggest that some PiC may be susceptible to heavy e-cigarette use potentially as a consequence of high nicotine dependence and situational factors such as e-cigarette product choice and availability in prisons; issues with nicotine delivery; prison regimes; and use of e-cigarettes for managing negative emotions. These factors may act as barriers to cutting down or stopping use of e-cigarettes by PiC who want to make changes due to dissatisfaction with vaping or lack of interest in continued use of nicotine, cost and/or health concerns. Conclusions E-cigarettes helped PiC to cope with smokefree rules, although concerns about e-cigarette efficacy, cost and safety were raised. PiC may desire or benefit both from conventional smoking cessation programmes, and interventions to support reduction, or cessation, of vaping. Implications Findings highlight successes, challenges and potential solutions in respect of use of e-cigarettes to cope with mandated smoking abstinence in populations with high smoking prevalence and heavy nicotine dependence. Experiences from prisons in Scotland may be of particular interest to health and/or justice services in other jurisdictions, with similar legislation on e-cigarettes to the UK, who are planning for institutional smokefree policies in their prisons or inpatient mental health settings in the future.

nicotine; nicotine dependence; smoking cessation; emotions; peripheral catheterization; safety; scotland; tobacco; smoking abstinence; electronic cigarettes; correctional facilities; self-mutilation by cutting; dissatisfaction; vaping

Nicotine and Tobacco Research: Volume 23, Issue 6

FundersCRUK Cancer Research UK, Medical Research Council and Chief Scientist Office
Publication date30/06/2021
Publication date online26/12/2020
Date accepted by journal15/12/2020