Beginning June 4, online cigarettes will become a contraband item at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Sandoval County commissioners on Thursday unanimously approved a policy change proposed by Detention Center director Al Casamento to prohibit the possession and consumption of all cigarettes products at the jail. The ban covers staff, visitors and contractors as well as inmates.

At present, inmates and staff are allowed to smoke cigarettes in outdoor areas at the jail.

Casamento said staff faced with the prospect of having to give up discount cigarette online or chew during their work shift can take advantage of smoking cigarettes cessation classes. Inmates, who can spend up to 364 days in the county lock-up, will have to go cold turkey.

They will be able to call a state phone number that offers counseling for people who want to quit, but they won’t be able to use a patch or Nicorette, Casamento said.

He plans to give out hard candy to help folks kick the habit.

“I think this is a great idea,” Commissioner Don Leonard said, citing the health risks associated with discount cigarettes use.

Leonard pointed out that the county has to cover health-care costs for inmates and is under pressure from the state to reduce those costs.

The ban is modeled on a policy in effect at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Bernalillo County, Casamento said, adding that his own staff was the driving force in introducing it at the Sandoval County Detention Center.

Once in effect, any tobacco products discovered inside the detention center structure will be confiscated and violators could face felony criminal charges. Staff also could face termination.

Commissioner Don Chapman said he, too, liked the policy.

“I like that it’s got some teeth to it,” Chapman said.

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