JONESBOROUGH, Tenn. (WJHL) — Washington County Commissioners will consider a resolution Monday night allowing sale of up to three e-cigarettes a week to county jail inmates in a deal that could bring nearly half a million dollars of revenue annually to the sheriff’s department.

Advertised as “shank resistant” and difficult to tamper with, the “eCig4 Inmate” product comes in five flavors. A similar product was used with great success at the Greene County Detention Center, Jail Administrator John Key told News Channel 11 Monday.

The county would enter a two-year service agreement with the company VendEngine, which provides the product in several Tennessee facilities including the Greene County Detention Center. The company touts the product as a way to not just generate revenue but also to improve inmate behavior and morale and reduce use of contraband tobacco.

A promotion for the company that Washington County is considering a contract with to allow e-cigarettes to be sold to county jail inmates. (Washington County)

The county’s Public Safety Committee recommended 4-0 to approve the proposal for the product known as “eCig 4 Inmate” at its May 4 meeting. The pro forma proposal estimates that about 70% of the jail’s 600 inmates are smokers.

If each smoker purchased three cigarettes a week (they contain 500-700 puffs) at $16.05 per e-cigarette, the county would net $7.24 for each cigarette, or $21.72 weekly per full participant. If an average of 420 inmates weekly bought three e-cigarettes, the net revenue would be $474,364.80 cents a year.

The maker, custom Technologies describes the product as helping reduce not just tobacco contraband but “nicotine withdrawal aggression while Increasing (sic) morale and behavior…”

The planned $16.05 cost to inmates covers the $11 base cost of each e-cigarette plus $4 in fees for maintenance related to security, and $1.05 in sales tax. The county’s cost is $3.65 per e-cigarette and about 11 cents shipping per cigarette.

Greene County’s Key said the jail there has allowed inmates to order up to two e-cigarettes a week for the past six years or so. Sales bring the county about $180,000 a year in revenue, but Key said there are other benefits as well.

“It helps with inmate behavior because it allows them to not have to quit cold turkey from tobacco products,” Key said, adding that he believes it really cuts down on violence inside the jail. He added that the program works as leverage for behavior.

“If they abuse the privilege we can restrict the sale of e-cigarettes to an individual or a housing unit.”