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updated: 10/31/2013 4:39 PM

2 downstate jails allowing e-cigarettes

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Associated Press

Two county jails in southern Illinois are allowing inmates to use electronic cigarettes, and other counties are considering it.

Jails often ban inmates from smoking cigarettes, but White County and Saline County are letting inmates use the nicotine-infused vapor inhalers. Officials in Franklin, Wabash and Williamson counties also are deciding if they'll let inmates use electronic cigarettes, also known as e-cigarettes.

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Jails in other states are using the e-cigarettes to raise money for jail programs.

White County jail administrator Randy Cobb said the experiment has slowed contraband and raised inmate morale.

"I think it's a trend all counties will eventually adopt," Cobb told Lee Enterprises newspapers.

Saline County jail administrator Brian Bennett says there haven't been any problems at his Harrisburg lockup.

"Initially I was against it," Bennett said. "But I haven't seen any issues with it so far."

The Illinois Department of Corrections bars the product from being sold at prison commissaries. IDOC spokesman Tom Shaer said that policy "is likely to remain in place."

The American Lung Association in Illinois says it's "deeply troubled" by jails using e-cigarettes to make money. It said in a statement that it "urges county leaders to find an alternate way to support the jail, one that does not jeopardize the health of both inmates and staff."

Earlier this year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation that bans selling e-cigarettes to minors.

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