in Houston, Texas
Smith County enacts smoking ban, exempts jail inmates
Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 01:24PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Ah, the diabolical genius of the Smith County Commissioners Court.

Commissioners in this East Texas county yesterday voted to fine people up to $200 for smoking in and near all county buildings, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph. Well, almost all people. The more than 700 inmates of the Smith County Jail may continue to smoke.

Feel free at this point in the story to consider who is being punished before we push on.

The court briefly flirted with a smoking ban in jail until reminded by Smith County Chief Deputy Bobby Garmon that the inmates, nearly 100 percent of whom smoke, started a small but violent riot the last time Sheriff J.B. Smith issued a ban.

“Aside from the commissary and visitation, cigarettes are my best tool to keep these inmates under control,” Smith told the court. “You take that away from a cell full of men, and they will be fighting all day long.”

Feel free at this point in the story to consider whether smoking might not have been banned outside of jail had law-abiding, but nicotine-addicted, citizens begun violently rioting.

Commissioners were further convinced when Garmon suggested, pursuing a fascinating line of logic, that taking cigarettes away from inmates could actually be bad for their health. The county, he said, would then be liable for providing nicotine substitutes in the form of patches or gum.

Feel free at this point in the story to consider whether law-abiding, but nicotine-addicted, citizens might violate the law to be jailed so that they might be able to smoke legally.

No chance. The Commissioners Court made sure of it. The maximum penalty for smoking on county property, a Class C misdemeanor, is a fine, not jail time.
Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or

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Photo of cigarette by flickr user lanier67, used via a Creative Commons license.
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