While traditional cigarettes are banned from most prisons, a number of county jails are now looking to e-cigarettes as an alternative for inmates — and as a new source of profit. According to The New York Times, county jails in at least seven states have permitted some amount of e-cig sales to inmates, and the devices have proven to be quite popular. "They’ve been selling like hot cakes," Sheriff Millard Gustafson, of Gage County in southeastern Nebraska, tells the Times. His 32-person jail has sold out of the 200 e-cigs it ordered in December, and it now has more on the way.

E-cig manufacturers have started making 'jail-safe' plastic models

Traditional cigarettes are reportedly banned from most prisons due to fire and second-hand smoke concerns. Not all e-cigarettes are allowed into prisons either because of their metal bodies, but the Times reports that some manufacturers have begun making "jail-safe" plastic models to get approval.

Prisons spoken to by the Times seem to be finding that e-cigs have reduced violence between inmates, likely because it provides them with a nicotine fix they would otherwise be unable to get. But for prisons, selling e-cigarettes is about more than the prisoners' interests: it's about profit. One jail said that it buys e-cigs that lasts through 500 puffs for $2.75 and then sells them to inmates for $10 each. While that jail's goal is to give its guards a raise and make up for budget cuts, for others, it isn't clear exactly what their plans are for the new stream of revenue.