Lawmakers suggest prisons go smoke-free

Lawmakers are being asked this year to ban smoking in Missouri prisons.

Identical bills were introduced this month in the House and Senate, prohibiting all smoking or use of tobacco products in any area of a state correctional center or the surrounding grounds.

State Rep. Chris Molendorp, R-Belton, sponsors the House version, while Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, introduced the Senate version Wednesday.

“In this budget climate,” Lembke said, “we’ve got a huge line-item here of $142 million in health care costs in our prisons.

“I think this will show an immediate, and a long-term, benefit to what we’re spending on health care for our prisoners.”

Molendorp noted: “We’re paying for the health care of inmates who are suffering from respiratory illness, emphysema, lung cancer, asthma (and) COPD — all these things that are caused by smoking and, particularly, smoking in an enclosed place.

“So part of this is public health policy.”

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