London: Smoking is to be banned in prisons in England and Wales, Britain's Prisons Minister Andrew Selous has announced.
Smoking is currently permitted in prison cells and exercise yards, but the government plans to introduce a phased programme in January which will eventually lead to smoking being prohibited in all 136 prisons, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
The government cites the health risks of smoking, though there have been a number of legal challenges by prison officers and some prisoners who have complained about the effects of passive smoking.
With a prison population of around 80,000, it is not yet known how prisoners will react to the proposed outright ban. The Prison Governors Association, which represents prison officers, supports the ban, and says it will monitor the introduction of the ban.