Jail to sell inmates e-cigarettes

Jail in Tennessee hoping to raise money to fund staff, facility

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A jail in Tennessee is sparking controversy with its latest fundraising idea -- selling electronic cigarettes to inmates.

Starting Tuesday, the Macon County Jail will offer e-cigarettes to inmates craving a smoke as a way to raise money to fund the facility, Nashville TV station WSMV reported.

Some question if it feeds a bigger problem of addiction.

Sheriff Mark Gammons said the e-cigarettes will be made especially for jail use, so they don't have any sharp edges.

And unlike other electronic cigarettes, the ones for the jail can't be recharged. Instead, after about 500 puffs, inmates have to buy another.

They will sell for $13.50 a piece, WSMV reported.

"I hope I can make $45,000 a year and that profit will be turned in to help pay these guards for being understaffed, underpaid," Gammons said.

But it's not just about money.

Gammons said one of the hottest items inmates try sneak into the jail is cigarettes. With the e-cigarette program, authorities can control which inmates get to buy them and when they get their nicotine hit.

"This way anybody that does smoke they have the freedom to buy this," Gammons said. "It will allow them to have some form of cigarette while they are in jail."

But Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, said feeding an addiction doesn't help public health and safety in the long term.

The American Lung Association in Tennessee also has concerns, along with other health organizations. 

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