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Jailers say smoking ban stirs appetites, not fights

Inmates contend that a smoking ban at the Escambia County Jail has incited them to violence. Their jailers deny it and say all the ban has done is make prisoners healthier, although hungrier.

The use of tobacco products by inmates and staff was banned April 1. Jailers, however, can go outside to light up during breaks.

"The real effect on the inmates _ and everyone said, "Oh, there are going to be riots and there is going to be crisis' _ (is) the commissary sales, candy and cookies, have gone through the roof," said Maj. Gerald Russo, the jail's director.

Escambia's jail policy is part of a rapidly growing trend, said American Jail Association President David M. Parrish, detention commander for Hillsborough County.

Los Angeles County in California, which has the nation's largest jail system with 23,000 inmates, in March began phasing in a smoking ban. Its 10 jail facilities will be smoke-free by January.

In Florida, jails in Hillsborough, Polk, Broward, Leon, Marion, Duval and Charlotte counties have ordered butts out, most of them since Jan. 1.

Smoking is banned in medical facilities, hallways and dining halls in Florida's state prisons.

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