"They've been selling like hot cakes," he said. "I look at this as something to control their moods. And so if they're not a good boy or girl, I'm going to take them away, just like I do with the TVs."
Some jails earn profits of more than 400 percent for each e-cigarette — money that goes either to the county's general fund or directly into the jail budget.
In September, 40 state attorneys general sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration urging it to regulate e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products. The F.D.A. is expected to soon set marketing and product rules on the devices.
the influence that e-cigarettes exert over inmates has been instrumental in maintaining good order. "The thing I like about it is it controls the guy," he said. "We had four or five fights last week. One guy who'd had a fight asked for an e-cigarette and it calmed him down. It's not meant to help inmates, it's meant to help my guys."
Byron Satterfield, Macon County's chief deputy sheriff, said that because the introduction of e-cigarettes had led to fewer inmate fights, there had also been a reduction in trips to the hospital.
"The cost of fixing a broken nose is $2,000," he said, "so I figure we're saving the county some money."