Local smokers will have added reason to keep out of trouble beginning Friday, when the Utah County Jail goes smoke-free.
And although coughs of protest have been rising for several weeks from the ranks of the jailed, Sheriff Dave Bateman said inmates someday may thank jail officials for helping them kick the habit.Bateman said the jail is taking measures to help inmates get through the anticipated cold turkey of tobacco withdrawal.
"We've had a number of counseling sessions for them," he said. "We've brought in the Health Department, and we've purchased hard candy and jawbreakers we can give to them. We also plan on providing additional snacks during this initial introductory period."
Bateman said the jail also will provide inmates with more "sitdown-type games" to help them get their minds off smoking.
"There will be a number who will kick the habit and maybe come back and thank us for the extra years of life we added to their existence," he said.
Bateman said several county jails throughout the state have gone smoke-free and the Utah County Jail is merely following suit.
"Because of the high number of the inmate population that smokes, we were somewhat reluctant to shut that off completely in the past until the surgeon general's report came out, which added some official sanction to what we've been told before about secondhand smoking," Bateman said. The report says cigarette smoke poses a health hazard to non-smokers.
"We felt that those who did not smoke were being placed in an environment that subjected us to potential problems from a lawsuit point of view," he said.
In addition, Bateman said, the jail's ventilation system and inmate overcrowding make designation of smoking areas impractical. Officials also fear that continued smoking could trigger the new fire-prevention sprinkling system.