Now critics are warning that inmates could suffer short-term mental health issues as a result of the ban.
An estimated 80% of prisoners are smokers and it is thought the risk of legal action as a result of passive smoking could be driving the call for a ban.
A pilot smoking ban is scheduled to begin next year, with a ban likely by 2015.
Campaigners against the ban say it could have a destabilising effect and cause more harm than good.
In prisons cigarettes are often used as currency between the 84,000 inmates around Britain. All smokers will be offered nicotine patches as a substitute.
Andrew Neilson, from campaign charity the Howard League for Penal Reform, believes a ban will be difficult to enforce. He said: “Prisons are going through unprecedented budget cuts, prison resources, staff resources have been cut. There may well be good intentions behind this policy proposal, but it will undoubtedly put a lot of pressure on jails which are already pretty stretched.”
As well as stretching prison resources, Neilson also believes a ban could trigger mental health problems with already ‘very distressed’ inmates.
He has described the choice to smoke as a ‘human right’.
The Prison Officers Association (POA) began campaigning for a smoking ban in all UK prisons in 2007. The organisation believes smokers pose a risk to the health of other staff and inmates.