RESEARCH at the University of Stirling confirmed levels of second-hand smoke fell sharply in Scottish prisons following the introduction of a ban.

The study, which was published in British Medical Journal’s Tobacco Control, is the first of its kind and showed concentrations of second-hand smoke (SHS) fell by more than 80 per cent.

More than 110,000minutes of measurements were collected across the prison estate in the week the ban was introduced with the results compared with readings from 2016.

Dr Sean Semple, who led the work at the university’s Institute of Social Marketing and collaborated with the University of Glasgow as well as the prison service, said: “Our study shows improvements in the levels of second-hand smoke in every prison in Scotland, with an average fall of 81 per cent.

“This is similar to the scale of change observed when pubs became smoke-free in 2006 – and the concentrations of fine particles in prison air has now reduced to levels similar to those measured in outdoor air in Scotland.

“This research confirms that exposure to second-hand smoke has been drastically reduced and, ultimately, this will have a positive impact on the health of prison staff and prisoners.”

His team used air quality monitors to measure fine particulate matter, something widely used as a proxy measurement for second-hand smoke.

The research was part of the broader Tobacco in Prisons Study (TIPS), the principal investigator of which is Professor Kate Hunt, acting director of the institute.

She said: “It demonstrates widespread improvements in prison air quality as a result of the smoke-free policy with all 15 prisons reporting substantial and statistically significant reductions in fine particulate matter concentrations in the week when the smoke-free policy was implemented, compared to previous directly comparable measurements made in 2016.

“The exposure of prison staff and prisoners to SHS is likely to be considerably reduced as a result of implementation of this policy.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Prison Service explained the ban came into force at the end of November last year, adding that there have been “no significant incidents as a result”.

He said: “This amazing achievement is a testament to the contribution made by all of our staff, especially those on the front line, and the cooperation of those in our care.

“Having data from the TIPS research helped in our planning and collaboration with the NHS and has been key to ensuring people in our care were prepared for going smoke free and were offered help to quit in advance, similar to the support people in the community can access through their local pharmacy or GP.”