Webber, et al., v. Crabtree, et al.

Plaintiff federal prison camp inmates filed an action against defendant prison officials under 28 U.S.C. sec. 1331, seeking equitable relief from a smoking ban at the camp.  Plaintiffs alleged that they were denied equal protection because other federal inmates were permitted to buy and use tobacco.  They also argued that the prison regulations, 28 C.F.R. sec. 551.163(a), did not grant the defendant warden discretion to ban all smoking. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the plaintiff’s equal protection argument, ruling that the inmates “are not members of a suspect class” and that they “failed to show that smoking is a fundamental right.”  The ban is rationally related to a legitimate state interest, i.e., protecting nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke.  However, the Court of Appeals ruled that the prison regulations, which state that the “warden shall identify ‘smoking areas,’” thus “require the warden to identify outdoor areas [for smoking], and leave the warden no discretion to refuse to do so.”

158 F.3d 460, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 24888 (U.S.C.A. 9th Cir. 1998).