Counselling to help prisoners quit smoking

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PRISONERS who smoke are being given free nicotine patches to help them quit.

The scheme is part of a 384,000-a-year drive to improve the health of inmates and includes counselling to help them kick the habit.

Nurses have been holding weekly sessions with murderers, rapists and other convicted criminals which cost around 60 per prisoner.

And extra money has been secured to extend the initiative this year.

But campaigners have said that it is an insult to victims of crime.

Margaret Watson, of Justice for Victims, whose daughter Diane was killed in a knife attack when she was 16, said:

“This is yet another slap in the face.

“My husband was denied counselling after our daughter was killed yet prisoners are given it to help them stop smoking.

“It defies belief. They’d be far better spending the money on proven criminal rehabilitation schemes or on setting up a victims’ commissioner. “

More than three in four of Scotland’s 8000 prisoners smoke compared to around one in four of the general population.

In the six months to October, 174 inmates attended classes in which some where handed nicotine patches and nasal sprays to help them.

But Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ lobby group Forest, said that it is a waste of money.

He added:

“You’d have thought a policy like this would be evidence based but we’ve never seen any figures to suggest counselling of this sort works.

“Ultimately quitting smoking comes down to willpower. Without that you can have all the counselling and nicotine patches in the world and it won’t make a blind bit of difference.

“This doesn’t seem like a very sensible use of taxpayers’ cash given the state of public finances. “

More than 13,000 Scots die each year from smoking-related illnesses.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Prison Service said the scheme

“aims to address medical issues in the controlled environment of a prison, before individuals are released into the community. “

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