Is Vaping Allowed in Prisons? A Detailed Guide

Prison Info

In the United Kingdom, smoking in prisons has long been a subject of debate. A significant change was introduced back in 2016, when the Ministry of Justice announced new rules related to the use of e-cigarettes—commonly known as vaping—in prison facilities.

Why did the rules change?

The new regulations were developed in response to a blanket ban on smoking in prison establishments, which was rolled out successively across the UK from 2016 onwards. Concerns about second-hand smoke were cited as the primary reason, with prison staff and non-smoking inmates being inadvertently exposed. The introduction of e-cigarettes was viewed as a solution that would limit exposure to second-hand smoke, while still giving prisoners who smoked a viable alternative.

Are e-cigarettes allowed in all UK prisons?

As a rule, yes, vaping is permitted in the majority of UK prisons. However, the specific products allowed can vary and are strictly controlled. The National Health Service (NHS) worked directly with prison authorities to procure a suitable and safe e-cigarette product. The model chosen was deemed to be low-risk, with a particular emphasis on preventing misuse or the ability to turn the e-cigarette into a weapon.

However, the use of e-cigarettes is regulated differently in some prisons across the UK with some additional rules. It’s crucial to contact individual establishments for their particular policies.

Can prisoners buy vapes?

Yes, inmates in UK prisons can purchase vaping products. A system has been developed in which prisoners can use their internal earnings or money sent in by family to buy e-cigarette and vaping products from a pre-approved list. These purchases are made through the prison tuck shop or ‘canteen’, with weekly limits established in terms of quantity.

Can family and friends give vapes to prisoners?

In most cases, family and friends cannot directly provide inmates with e-cigarettes or vaping products. For safety and security reasons, prisons only permit vaping products that have been directly supplied by the approved provider to ensure quality and safety standards.

What happens if the vaping rules are broken?

All prisons have a clear set of rules regarding vaping and e-cigarette use. Those who violate the rules can face a variety of punishments, including loss of privileges or even additional disciplinary action.

Are there help and advice available for inmates who want to stop smoking?

Yes, there is a range of support available for those who want to quit smoking, including the provision of nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). Group therapy sessions, counselling, and other types of support may be available depending on the prison. The NHS provides advice and support in this area.


To summarise, vaping in UK prisons is generally permitted following the ban on smoking, introduced to protect the health of staff and non-smoking prisoners. However, the specific rules and products allowed can vary between different institutions. Those seeking to provide vaping products to a family or friend in prison should check with the specific establishment for their particular rules and procedures. Similarly, anyone looking to quit smoking while in prison will find that there is help and support available – just ask for it.

Remember, rules and regulations can change, so it’s always important to seek out the most recent information from official sources or the prison directly.

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