The e-cigarette is no longer welcome in Belgian penitentiaries. Justice Minister Koen Geens recently announced a vaping ban in prison, citing security concerns as the main reason. Vaping, however, plays an important role in helping prisoners quit smoking.
The surprising decision has just been announced, and it is already being criticized because it deprives inmates of an effective method to reduce tobacco consumption.
The decision taken by the CD&V party is difficult to understand for inmates and their families. Indeed, up until now the electronic cigarette has been successful as a nicotine substitute. Inconsistencies with the new ban were also pointed out elsewhere: although e-cigarettes are banned in Louvain prison, they can be purchased in the women’s prison in Lantin.
Security concerns invoked by the Justice Ministry
In Belgium, misunderstanding has been the main response to the Justice Ministry’s announcement. Given the health benefits of vaping, such a ban doesn’t seem justifiable. But the Justice Ministry cited another reason for making the decision: the electronic cigarette poses security risks. E-cigarette batteries can be used to recharge smartphones, allowing prisoners to potentially communicate with people on the outside.
Koen Geens cited an even more surprising reason. According to him, the administration does not recognize the e-cigarette as a legitimate nicotine substitute. Consequently, the government does not consider vaping products indispensable for prisoners.
In any case, Justice Minister Koen Geens’ decision will be harmful to Belgian prisoners, for they will no longer be able to turn to vaping as an alternative to traditional cigarettes. Recent studies, especially in Great Britain, continue to demonstrate the e-cigarette’s effectiveness as an alternative to tobacco.