Breaking the Chains on Addictions: The E-Cig Behind Bars

By: Julia Collins

Over the past ten years, the market for electronic cigarettes (e-cigs) has grown, increasing in production and consumer population. An e-cig is a battery-powered smokeless device that heats liquid nicotine solutions to produce inhalable vapor.  One huge market for electronic cigarettes is in county jails across the United States for inmates to purchase.  Jailers and government officials believe that selling e-cigs to inmates has not only decreased the health risks among users such as agitation and those with nicotine withdrawal, but it also has decreased the amount of traditional cigarette contraband in jails.  By having e-cigs available to inmates, you allow them to have the option to purchase something that can help them with withdrawal problems and calm them down, as they feel anxious without it.  Studies show that e-cigs have helped in improvement of behavior in inmates and have caused less fighting and arguments.

For e-cig producers and marketers this is a great opportunity, for they have a large target market and a great demand for the product.  This new market has become one of the primary sources of income for e-cig producers.  Jails are a huge market and only specific e-cigs can be sold into jails.  These e-cigs must be made of plastic and inspected by the jailers.  The marketers are able to get back the used e-cigs from jails because the inmates must return used products in order to purchase another.  The market for e-cigs in jails is growing because cigarettes are banned in jails and are becoming harder for inmates to sneak in due to tighter protection laws.  The e-cig does not produce smoke that can be toxic to those around them.  Instead, it is an odorless vapor.  This is a key factor of the product and beneficial to marketers because no lighter is needed, is does not smell like a traditional cigarette, and they are cheaper than a pack of traditional cigarettes.  E-cigs however, can be used in smoke free environments because there are little regulations according to the FDA.  Marketers can then present them as “smokeless tobacco products that have no health problems.”

I personally do not agree, and I believe nicotine it is a horrible chemical that can cause many health problems.  Cigarettes contain seven thousand chemicals, and sixty-nine of them are carcinogens.  But for those who do smoke, and a large portion of the inmates in jails are smokers; I think that e-cigs provide the option to continue their use but not harm those around them with second hand smoke.  Many say that they should not be sold in jails because they should not be given the right to purchase that type of product.  I look at differently. Addictions can be hard to fight, and many of the inmates were not trying to quit smoking before they were arrested.  So with the option to purchase and smoke an e-cig, inmates are given the chance to smoke, or use the e-cig to try and quit. E-cigs may not be a safe product, but they are safer than cigarettes, and safer to have in jails.


5 thoughts on “Breaking the Chains on Addictions: The E-Cig Behind Bars

  1. David Collins February 25, 2015 / 12:15 am

    This was an interesting read. It seems the focus isn’t necessarily on improving health (although that’s definitely desired) but to focus on keeping inmates calm and limit contraband. The less stressed the inmates are, the less likely it will be that a violent outbreak will occur. It immediately reminded me of the plan to give inmates foster dogs. It served two purposes, give a stray dog an owner, and to allow the inmate to bond, de-stress and care for something other than themselves. For the E-cig, it’s definitely a niche market, and proves that there is always a bigger target audience than you think.


  2. Brendan Sullivan February 26, 2015 / 1:34 am

    I would have never thought that selling a product to inmates can be this lucrative. It is a very good point on how it keeps inmates calm. I’m sure they can’t drink and that it is a complete life change for them. If having an E-Cig keeps you calm I’m sure the guards are fine with it. I am curious to how inmates pay for these E-cigs though. Do they have cash or is it like in the movies when they trade their possessions. This is definitely an interesting market and probably very cheap for companies to just send jails over some E-cigs.


  3. Kyley Murphy March 2, 2015 / 6:02 pm

    I think this is a brilliant marketing technique. Since some inmates do not have a lot of freedom to move outside their cells, I can only imagine the pent up aggression that they can build. If the nicotine helps the inmates to keep calm, then I am all for selling it to them. Even though this seems like a niche market where you have to adapt the product (from building metal ones to plastic ones), it is a great place to expand. Since the demand for electronic cigarettes is growing and inmates are not allowed to buy real cigarettes easily, this is perfect for the e-cigarette companies. Like the article said, it is also a great way for the prisons to receive additional profit which can help them to cover other expenses.


  4. Briana Lynch April 28, 2015 / 1:10 am

    I think that this is a great idea and I’m glad that it works to reduce aggression amongst prisoners. In my opinion, critics who say prisoners should not have the option to buy the e-cigs are ignorant. Who are they to decide prisoner rights? This seems like a positive way to reduce aggression, violence, and the use of actual cigarettes which are much more harmful. It sounds as if the prisons have a good system in place to ensure that the product and the purchasing process are not abused in any way. Since prisoners are a target market rarely considered,I think this was a smart move for the e-cig industry.


  5. Olivia Boudreau April 28, 2015 / 3:44 am

    This is a great opportunity for the E-cig industry since the market is so large. Also, competition is only between E-cig companies and not with other tobacco companies in general since those products aren’t allowed in prisons . Although I usually tend to oppose any kind of nicotine use due to all the health complications it causes, if it helps the issue of violence and aggression in prison I think it’s a good idea.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s