Welsh Government proposes banning e-cigarettes in public places

In collaboration with the Press Association

A new Welsh bill has set out proposals for banning e-cigarettes indoors, due to fears the devices could make tobacco smoking seem normal again.

“There isn’t enough evidence to justify a ban on using e-cigarettes indoors" - George Butterworth, Cancer Research UK

Wales' Health Minister Mark Drakeford said e-cigarettes were a "gateway" to deadly tobacco and risked "re-normalising smoking".

The proposals aim to bring the devices in line with existing anti-smoking laws.

"The bill will mean that anywhere you can't use a conventional cigarette, then you won't be able to use an e-cigarette either,” said Drakeford.

But public health groups have opposed the plans, saying that there is insufficient evidence that using e-cigarettes indoors would make smoking tobacco seem normal.

“There isn’t enough evidence to justify a ban on using e-cigarettes indoors. The measure could create more barriers for smokers trying to quit tobacco,” said George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager at Cancer Research UK.

The Welsh Government announced the new plans alongside a number of other public health measures, including forcing shops to join a register for tobacco retailers, aimed at controlling illegal tobacco sales.

But the Welsh Government’s decision around the proposed ban on e-cigarette use has proved the most controversial.

Since tobacco smoking was banned in enclosed public places in the late 2000s, and with the continued rise in the price of tobacco, there has been a rapid increase in the number of people using e-cigarettes.

Anti-smoking group Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) estimates there are now 2.6 million e-cigarette users – also known as ‘vapers’ – in the UK.

But Cancer Research UK believes the new plans could make it more difficult for some people looking to quit tobacco smoking.

“Cancer Research UK supports ‘light touch’ regulations of e-cigarette products and their marketing. E-cigarettes – although not risk-free – are almost certainly far safer than smoking tobacco cigarettes which kill up to two thirds of long-term smokers,” said Butterworth.

“This is a fast-emerging market but we’re optimistic about the potential benefits of e-cigarettes for helping smokers quit, whilst minimising the potential risks. Although there are still questions around the long-term health impacts of these products, Cancer Research UK supports evidence-based policy making,” he added.

ASH also said it did not support the sort of ban proposed by the Welsh government.

“We think they should be appropriately regulated. That does not include banning in public places,” said a spokesperson.

The proposed laws will now need to pass through the Welsh Assembly. If successful, any proposed ban would come into force in 2017.

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