E-cigarette use is growing among inmates across the country, as more prisons begin to allow the sale and use of vapor products. Most recently, Bradley County Tennessee approved the sale of e-cigarettes in an 11-2 vote. The counties approval allows the Sheriff’s office to stock and supervise the sale of e-cigarettes in the local correctional facilities commissary.
7 other states including Texas, Illinois, and Ohio allow for the sale of e-cigarettes in prison. Part of the reasoning by lawmakers is that vaping helps relieve stress for inmates they argue. Especially for those incarcerated in Tennessee, where there is a tobacco ban.
But there might be an ulterior motive driving the adoption of e-cigarettes in jail, and that is the revenue it can generate.
Prison’s make a commission off items sold in commissaries, and e-cigarettes provide a much higher mark up than analog cigarettes.
For this reason, some have began to question the true motives behind local counties, and sheriff departments. While some like Bradley County Sheriff Eric Watson are open about the lucrative opportunity, stating they “have the potential to earn between $96,000 and $120,000 per year”.
Some places are blatantly and scandalously exploiting the system to make a profit.
For example, evidence was uncovered by the Murfreesboro Post in Rutherford County, Tennessee that the owners of the company “JailCigs” a contracted e-cigarette vendor to the local prisons, are the Aunt and Uncle of the counties Sheriff. They also uncovered evidence that the Sheriff himself is an investor in the company.
Private e-cigarette labels aren’t shying away from marketing directly to sheriff departments either, with companies with names such as “eCigs 4 Inmates” popping up.
Another jail e-cigarette vendor by the name of Precision Vapor has been seen advertising at Sheriff association conferences with a slogan that read “ Earn 1000`s for your jail”.
E-cigs in prisons cost on average $14, almost double the price of standard disposable e-cigarettes sold in convenience stores.