Governor Pat McCrory signed the last bill remaining on his desk into law Monday night. It allows jails and prisons to sell e-cigarettes to inmates. WFAE’s Ben Bradford reports North Carolina sheriffs advocated for the change.
A tax law passed earlier this year also added e-cigarettes to the ban on smoking in prisons and jails. The restriction was set to take effect in December, but sheriffs—who operate county jails—want prisoners to have access to the devices.
“E-cigarettes are cheaper than the nicotine withdrawal packages some inmates get and need,” says Eddie Caldwell, a vice president of the North Carolina Sheriffs Association, and the organization’s chief lobbyist. “A lot of inmates are in for a short period of time, so there’s not enough time to put them into a program.”
Caldwell says new plastic versions of the devices are harder to sharpen and make into weapons. He also says once inmates have them, it gives correctional officers another means of punishment—they can take them away.
The Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention reports 75 to 80 percent of inmates smoke when they go into prison.
The new law was part of a larger technical corrections bill, which otherwise contains mostly minor wording changes to existing laws.