ABOUT 500 inmates at the Wellington jail have taken up the offer of nicotine patches as a smoking ban takes effect in all prisons across NSW from Monday, Corrective Services NSW says.
The therapy is one of a complement of measures available to support prisoners in quitting the habit at the maximum security centre that is also "well-equipped" to respond immediately to emergencies, its general manager advises.
Corrective Services NSW said the ban's rollout had been well-planned, while a union representative for prison workers also reported that he was confident it was "on track".
A riot in a Victorian remand centre six weeks ago was triggered by the introduction of a smoking ban.
Prisoners' rights group Justice Action has warned that the policy would cause agitation and frustration in NSW jails.
Wellington Correctional Centre general manager Brad Peebles said preparation for the ban in the past nine months would minimise the chance of strife.
On Thursday every inmate at the correctional centre was interviewed by Justice Health staff, he said.
Every smoker was offered a full course of nicotine replacement therapy.
"About 500 inmates have taken up the offer and received a month's supply of the patches to help with the addiction and cravings," he said.
After a month there would be a follow up and those still in need would be offered another couple of weeks of the therapy, Mr Peebles said.
An inmate committee had worked with staff on preparation and asked for extra sport, activities and training to take their minds off smoking, he said.
There was a full schedule arranged for the next six weeks in addition to the ordinary activities they did, he said.
The general manager reported the vast majority of smokers were happy to quit and told of one inmate he had spoken to that day who was welcoming the ban.
The prisoner had previously been a sportsman and with the change he was focused on doing extra training and getting fit again, Mr Peebles said.
The Public Service Association (PSA) of NSW was against the ban but held some concerns about how it could be implemented.
PSA prison officers vocational branch chairman Steve McMahon said they had consulted with Corrective Services NSW and taken steps.
"There were concerns inmates may decide to play up over this," he said.
"We are aware it is one of the risks of our jobs. We've doubled the efforts on training."
Its membership, which includes employees of Wellington Correctional Centre as well as the Dubbo-based Court Escort Security and Transport Unit, had been asking about second-hand cigarette smoke for some time, Mr McMahon said.
He said they were hearing that many inmates were embracing the policy.
"We're hearing little about inmates who are outright against (it)," he said.
"Obviously some may be disgruntled that it's forced upon them and we're taking all precautions to prepare for that."