Back in the day when a ban on smoking in pubs was under discussion, I was opposed to it. If you want to know why I was, you could start here and follow some of the internal links. But at least with that ban, smokers have the option of going somewhere else to do their smoking. Recent reports that a total ban on smoking in prisons is now under consideration - here (£), here, here - mention the rationale behind this as being the fear of legal action from non-smokers who don't want to incur the risks from passive smoking; and they mention concerns over whether a smoking ban would cause disturbances amongst prisoners objecting to it.
Nothing is said, however, about whether prisoners have a right to smoke, at least somewhere in the prison 'domain', which is in effect their home for the time being. Naturally, the health of other prisoners and prison staff needs to be protected; but this shouldn't rule out the possibility of some areas being set aside for smoking. In response to the prospect of a similar ban in New South Wales, Simon Chapman, Professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, makes some essential points:
Ethically, the case for banning smoking in indoor areas of prisons is incontestable. There is no right to harm others by the exercise of one's freedom or preference to smoke, which is why laws ban smoking in all enclosed public spaces, and sardine-like crowded open air spaces like stadiums and some outdoor concert spaces.
[T]he only people being harmed by someone smoking in a wide-open outdoor space are smokers themselves. A prisoner smoking in an outdoor area, well away from windows where smoke might drift indoors, would not be harming others. A small enclosed exercise yard might be a problem , but a prison garden or open air grounds would not.
Prisoners, by definition, have their liberties severely restricted. Some people think it's OK to remove one of prisoners' few remaining freedoms: to smoke outdoors. These people would be horrified if such a policy was extended to their neighbours or friends. But apparently it's OK with prisoners because they don't deserve to be treated like other citizens.
Like the blanket ban on smoking in pubs, it's a straightforward piece of illiberalism and has no justification.