Apparently, California's government is trying Prohibition again. This time they've banned cigarettes in jail, and to their surprise it's not going as planned. Granted, as California will probably face increasing costs to treat tobacco-related illnesses, it makes sense to reduce smoking in prisons. But they clearly botched the implementation.

Instead of banning cigarettes, they should outlaw trafficking with steep disincentives for sales or gifts. Cigarettes should be purchaseable in the jail commissary at a minor mark-up to external prices. Then keep track of who's buying how much. Target people who buy "too much" with remediation incentives (positive and negative). The "too much" will probably target the minimum costs to the system weighing health costs versus longer lives + tobacco revenues.

I can only hope that the bureaucrats presented an option like this to the politicians. And that the politicians will replace this failed trial with another "fail better" version.

Update 2011-06-06:
The Global Commission on Drug Policy has published a pro-decriminalization Report. The list of commissioners has much weight:

Asma Jahangir -- human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan

Carlos Fuentes -- writer and public intellectual, Mexico

Cesar Gaviria -- former President of Columbia

Ernesto Zedillo -- former President of Mexico

Fernando Henrique Cardoso -- former President of Brazil (chair)

George Papandreou -- Prime Minister of Greece

George Shultz -- former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair)

Javier Solana -- former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, Spain

John Whitehead -- banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial, United States

Kofi Annan -- former Secretary General of the United Nations, Ghana

Louise Arbour -- former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, president of the International Crisis Group, Canada

Maria Cattaui -- Member of the Board, Petroplus Holdings; former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland

Marion Caspers-Merk -- former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health, Germany

Mario Vargas Llosa -- writer and public intellectual, Peru

Michel Kazatchkine -- executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, France

Paul Volcker -- former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board, US

Richard Branson -- entrepreneur, advocate for social causes, founder of the Virgin Group, cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom

Ruth Dreifuss -- former President of Switzerland and Minister of Home Affairs

Thorvald Stoltenberg -- former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway