The National Commission on Correctional Health hosts their annual conference this week in Phoenix. One of the pre-conference seminars featured the strides Arizona has made toward helping inmates to quit using tobacco products. Speakers included Carole Whitlock, the Health Program Manager at the Arizona Department of Corrections, Shannon Vaffis, the Assistant Director overseeing Community Relations and Referrals for the Arizona Smoker’s Helpline, Jan Vidimos from the Pinal County Public Health Services District, and R. Scott Chavez, the Vice President of the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
Arizona was one of the first states to recognize the importance of providing cessation services to inmate populations. Tobacco use disproportionately affects inmates. The prevalence rate among incarcerated individuals is estimated to be as high as 80%. In terms of tobacco related medical expenses, the implications to taxpayers are clear: helping inmates to quit can add up to substantial savings.