The image of Paul Newman as the rebellious inmate in “Cool Hand Luke,” cigarette dangling from his lips, is as iconic as it is outdated, because most jails banned tobacco decades ago.
But the new crop of so-called “e-cigarettes” may change that.
Jails in Tennessee — including Sumner and Rutherford counties — are allowing inmates to smoke electronic cigarettes behind bars to help pacify what can be a rowdy population, but also as a revenue source. These disposable e-cigarettes, which usually cost the inmates between $9 and $15 each, contain no tobacco but instead use a low-voltage battery to deliver the key chemical in cigarettes, nicotine, while emitting only water vapor.
The Tennessee Department of Correction does not allow e-cigarettes in prison. But e-cigarettes behind bars are growing increasingly common across the country, and at least five Tennessee counties have allowed them into their jails. E-cigarette companies have begun exhibiting at Tennessee Sheriffs Association conferences, promising a cash cow for jails.