Andy Kim is a former GOVERNING staff writer.
More and more states across the country are adopting tobacco bans in their prisons. In fact, half of the states in the U.S. have already enacted bans in their prisons. The reason? Aside from letting inmates and guards enjoy smoke-free air, the ban helps states save money by bringing down health care costs.
At the same time, more and more states are also increasing their cigarette taxes. In 2009, 14 states and the District of Columbia raised cigarette taxes-bringing the national average to $1.34 per pack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that was only the tenth time since 1950 that so many states have raised cigarette taxes at once.
After taking a look at a map of states with tobacco-free prisons and another of states' cigarette taxes, I noticed something pretty interesting: Of the 10 states with the highest cigarette taxes, only one has a ban on tobacco products in its prisons. Could the prison health care costs for these high-tax states be dwarfed by their cigarette tax revenue?
With states looking for ways to counterbalance budget cuts, one might wonder exactly how much money could be saved by banning tobacco use in their prisons--or by allowing it.
Here's USA Today's map showing states with tobacco-free prisons (blue states are those with bans), as of March 2010:
And here's USA Today's map showing states' cigarette excise taxes per pack (in dollars), as of December 2009:
Written and compiled by staff writers and editors, GOVERNING View is an on-the-ground, and sometimes behind-the-scenes, look at the topics we're covering in print and online. From notes on what's up in statehouses, county courthouses and city halls, to encounters with people, places and things, GOVERNING View is a window into the side of state and local government you don't always see.