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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Anderson Cooper's Final Thought

Aired August 27, 2003 - 19:58   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And finally tonight, smoke them if you got them. We told you earlier about the "Wall Street Journal" article on the shrinking cigarette market in prisons. Consider Rikers' Island. With New York City's new ban on indoor smoking, inmates at the famous jail can no longer buy butts there, and criminals who thought they were going to spend the next three to five years in Marlboro Country are not happy about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "BASIC INSTINCT")

SHARON STONE, ACTRESS: What are you going to do? Charge me with smoking?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, maybe not, but it is -- but is it fair that criminals who aren't as smoking as Sharon Stone was in "Basic Instinct" can't get away with lighting up anymore?

Let's face it. You lose serious cred when your cellmate trades you for a pack of gum rather than a handful of lucies. And aren't cigarettes part of the whole prison culture, the same macho stupidity that keeps prisons thriving? I mean, no one ever died from a secondhand shiv, right? Will death row inmates now get a blindfold and a piece of nicorette gum to step down their cravings on a schedule they decide?

More than one out of every 200 Americans is now in jail, and most of them are smokers. But maybe new prison smoking bans will succeed where punishment has failed. By giving criminals extra incentive to stay on the right side of the law, where they can enjoy the cool, mentholated taste of freedom. And even if criminals somehow find a way to get cigarettes behind bars, keep in mind smoking can cut years off a life sentence.

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