Hundreds of Australian inmates at a maximum security prison in Melbourne have rioted and prison staff have been evacuated prior to a smoking ban at the facility taking effect.

Television footage from the prison in Ravenhall, a suburb of Melbourne, showed prisoners with their faces covered, carrying sticks as makeshift weapons on Tuesday.

As many as 300 inmates were involved, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

A smoking ban, being imposed at prisons across the state of Victoria, is due to take effect at Ravenhall on Wednesday.

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"I'm not sure what caused the situation to escalate, but I'm aware of increased tensions since the smoking ban was introduced last week," Community and Public Sector Union spokeswoman Catherine Davies told Fairfax media.

A prison source told Fairfax that the riot was sparked because of the smoking bans.

"At 12:20pm this afternoon a group of prisoners breached a secure inner perimeter of the Metropolitan Remand Centre," a Corrections Victoria statement said.

"Parts of the prison have been locked down and Corrections Victoria is working with Victoria Police to contain the situation."


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No staff were reported injured in the incident.

Bans on smoking in Victoria's prisons were to come into effect on Wednesday.

"Smoke-free prisons will provide a healthier and safer workplace for everybody, a safer prison system and a better quality of life for people who quit smoking," the Victorian government said on its website.

Australia has increasingly banned smoking in public places over the past decade, including in restaurants, bars, and most workplaces.

Source: Al Jazeera And Reuters