The thought of giving up smoking fills many people with dread – but imagine going cold turkey in a tiny locked room with few distractions and some extremely irritating neighbours.

Smoking will be banned in all Scottish prisons on November 30. Tobacco products will no longer be sold to prisoners and they will be prohibited from smoking in either the buildings or the grounds. The Scottish Government says the ban is a further step towards its goal of creating a “tobacco-free generation” by 2034, and will improve the air quality for prisoners and the working conditions of wardens.

But prisoners, a rights organisation and the prison wardens union have warned the ban could be like throwing a match into a tinderbox.

HMP Cardiff banned smoking in March 2016 and by the end of the year there were more than twice as many assaults on prison staff and a 15 per cent rise in assaults on inmates, according to an independent monitoring board. Complaints from non-smokers about poor air quality actually rose after smokers started toking on so-called “Frankenstein fags” – contraband cigarettes made from Bible pages, nicotine patches and tea leaves – while there was also an increase in self-harm and use of the drug Spice.

Penal rights organisation Positive Prison? Positive Futures said there was “an increase in conflict” at Carstairs secure psychiatric hospital when it banned smoking in 2011. NHS Scotland has denied this – insisting there were “no adverse effects in terms of incidents of aggression” – and one of the few adverse consequences was that prisoners put on weight by switching from cigarettes to sweets.

A phased smoking ban at Drake Hall women’s prison in Staffordshire reportedly sparked a riot last summer when the prison shop stopped selling tobacco, with women “screaming and shouting, sitting on the roofs of blocks”.

Former Scottish prison inmate Gary Little has seen the effect even a temporary shortage of tobacco can have on prison behaviour. “When I was in Barlinnie, the tobacco hadn’t been delivered yet and people were not happy,” said Little. “I can’t imagine what will happen when they’re told they can’t get any tobacco at all. There are lifers in there who have been smoking all their life. Smokers tell me that it’s a really difficult thing to come off and now these guys will have to go cold turkey.”

The 54-year-old was sentenced to eight years for drug offences in 1995, and was sent back to jail for 27 months for stealing books in 2007. Following his release he translated his prison experiences into a series of hit stand-up comedy shows, and he is performing again at the Edinburgh Fringe this year. He added: “In that kind of environment there are always some people just waiting for a spark to kick off. People get pissed off when there’s a shortage of drugs in prison and I think there will be a few incidents if you take away fags, because you’re taking away a big thing that many people use to get through the day.

“They might stop toeing the line. Jail is all about carrots and sticks. If people toe the line they’ll make progress, but if they misbehave they lose their TV and other privileges, so taking away cigarettes will feel like a widespread punishment.”

He added: “I understand the school of thought that people are in prison to be punished, but you also have to think about the officers who have to deal with it. They’re short of staff and now they’ve got to deal with prisoners moaning – and whatever else – because they don’t have their cigarettes.”

Little said the days are gone when prisoners would trade fags for favours, pointing out that cigarettes are no longer a currency when “cons have got money in their pockets”. Prisoners have their own personal cash accounts which can be topped up by family members to buy small items from the canteen.

A survey by the Scottish Prison Service in 2015 found that 72 per cent of those in custody smoked – more than three times the rate of the general population. Phil Fairlie, chairman of the Prison Officers’ Association Scotland, welcomed the positive contribution the ban could make towards a healthy workplace, but said wardens’ safety could be put at risk if there is a prisoner backlash.

“With all the greatest respect, none of them are there by choice,” he said. “They are being held in a prison environment which in itself is a very unique and difficult working environment at the best of times.

“To suddenly withdraw the right and remove their opportunity to smoke, to remove one of the most highly addictive substances out there, to do that without any proper consideration or thought as to how you do that without providing smoking cessation programmes and the opportunity to come off cigarettes, could just simply add to what is already a very difficulty working environment for the staff, so it needs to be managed carefully.”

Pete White, national co-ordinator of Positive Prison? Positive Futures, said he expects the smoking ban to be “challenging”.

“There is only one other place in Scotland outside the prison system that has effectively tried to do this and that is the State Hospital Carstairs where there have been a number of repercussions to do with it all,” he said. “I’ve not seen the evidence myself, but I understand there has been an increase in levels of conflict between patients and staff and I also understand that there have been complaints lodged outside the health service regarding the imposition of the smoking ban.”

He added: “In terms of helping people deal with addiction and mental health issues, to impose a smoking ban on them is a very difficult thing to agree with straight away. The process of helping people give up smoking would be a good thing to introduce in prisons, and maybe provide smoke-free wings in the prison.

“I recognise that people who work in prisons are subjected to second-hand smoke in the way that people who worked in bars used to be, but I think there might be ways around that. I’m not disregarding the health interests of the prison staff, but I think we’ve got to approach this in a way that is supportive rather than prohibitive.”

A spokeswoman from the State Hospital Carstairs denied reports of unrest when the smoking ban was introduced in December 2011.

“The positive medical effects of giving up smoking are well recognised, particularly in terms of reduced cardiovascular and respiratory diseases including lung cancer,” she said.

“The implementation of a smoke-free environment included a policy for nicotine replacement and a formal evaluation. This found no adverse effects in terms of incidents of aggression; some increased spending on confectionery with an average weight gain of 3-4 kilograms.”

The smoking ban also led to a reduction in the dosage of antipsychotic medication Clozapine, as smoking had stimulated the enzymes in the blood that passed the drug through the patients’ system.

She added: “The State Hospital is currently working with the Scottish Prison Service regarding its proposed smoking ban to share the learning from our experience.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokeswoman said: “Individuals in our custody are aware of the ban. We anticipate that we will stop selling tobacco approximately two weeks prior to the ban taking effect.

“We are seeing nothing to suggest that there will be unrest. Regular communications are in place to inform individuals and we are working closely with our NHS partners to ensure that support is in place for those who wish it. We recognise the difficulty in giving up smoking.

“Workshops and focus groups have taken place across all Scottish prison sites. Individuals in custody, unsurprisingly, have questions regarding the removal of tobacco and have been introduced to alternative ways of managing their nicotine intake, either via nicotine vapour products or via support to stop smoking.”