Traditional cigarettes are banned from most prisons not only because of fire hazards but also because of second hand smokes. But a growing number of sheriffs, mainly in rural areas, are selling e-cigarettes to inmates. They say that it helps their moods and also with the budget shortfalls those jails usually experience. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have approved restrictions on e-cigarettes, but county jails in at least 7 states have allowed the sale of a selection of flavors to inmates. In some cases the e-cigarettes which have become a big seller are also used as rewards and punishments, meaning they can be withheld as some sheriffs do with things like TV. What makes the practice particularly disturbing is that e-cigarettes are sold to prisoners for $8 to $30 depending on the number of puffs they deliver. Typically a jail will buy the e-cigarette for $2.75 and sell it to a prisoner for $10.00. The sheriffs notice the difference these cigarettes make, they say there are fewer fights, and they believe they are saving their counties money since as one in Georgia said, “the cost of fixing a broken nose is $2000.”
Under these circumstances selling e-cigarettes to inmates may not be illegal, and perhaps it ought to be, but it is neither ethical nor honorable.