LONDON, Sept. 20 (UPI) -- A ban on smoking in British prisons, due to begin as a 2014 pilot program in two of them, could bring human rights challenges, an advocacy spokesman said.
Mark Johnson, chief executive officer of the prisoner non-profit organization User Voice, said smoking is a "human right."
Johnson said that prisoners who smoke could take legal action if the ban is imposed.
Others say the ban could act as a deterrent to petty criminals who are heavy smokers, The Daily Telegraph reported Friday.
Under the ban, smoking would be forbidden throughout an entire prison, including cells and exercise yards, places where inmates may now smoke, the Justice Ministry said.
The project will be implemented in two prisons in March or April, the Telegraph said.
"We've got a serious problem the way we have the rates of re-offending, and they sort of come up with a PR line about something as minute as smoking in cells," Johnson said.
Dee Edwards, who works with the crime victim's group R and K Foundation, countered: "Prisoners are already better fed and cared for than pensioners so why should they be treated any different to the rest of society? It's getting to point where you can't even smoke outside a building now so I don't see why prisoners shouldn't be banned."
Edwards suggested the ban could discourage some criminals "if they think they could go to jail and not be able to smoke."
After the pilot program has been evaluated, the ban could be extended across the rest of the prison system, the Telegraph said.
Prisoners will be given nicotine patches to help them quit smoking and handle nicotine withdrawal.