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Today the media has been flooded with the news that the Welsh Government plans to introduce a ban on vaping in enclosed public spaces. This has led to a slew of scaremongering and misinformation which is a subject probably best left to another article. NNA believes that the proposed ban in Wales is unjustified, misguided and will lead to harm, not only for vapers, but for smokers who will be discouraged from switching to a safer product. The ban is unlikely to come into force before 2017 and it is important that we all understand the legislative process in order to effectively fight this policy. NNA trustee Simon Thurlow has been involved with fighting these proposals from the start. Here he describes the next steps:

The Welsh Government has formally published the much talked about Public Health White Paper.

We already know that 79% of the public responses received by the Welsh Government OPPOSED the proposals to ban vaping in public enclosed spaces. Furthermore, the proposals were also opposed by public bodies/charities such as the Royal College of Physicians, ASH, Cancer Research UK, TENOVUS, DECIPHer Cardiff, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies and the British Heart Foundation.

Conversely, other public bodies chose to support the proposals of the Welsh Government. They include The BMA, Public Health Wales, Welsh Local Health Boards,  Directors of Public Health, Center for Tobacco Control (USA) and ‘some’ councils (they were not actually named).

However, it is important to understand that the publication of this White Paper merely contains a statement of INTENTION. It is not, and cannot be, a Law until it been put under scrutiny by the Health and Social Care Committee (HSCC) and then voted into Law by the entire Senedd of AMs. This is unlikely to happen until Feb/March 2017.

Now that the Welsh Government has published their intentions, the White Paper will be subject to scrutiny by the HSCC. Members of the HSCC include the Welsh Health Minister – Mark Drakeford – but also includes the Shadow Welsh Health Ministers, namely Darren Millar (Cons), Kirsty Williams (Lib-Dems) and Elin Jones (Plaid Cymru).

As the Welsh Government will go into recess for the summer months shortly, the HSCC will be issuing a call for evidence on the contents of the White Paper, including that of the eCigarette proposals. Responses to the calls for evidence can be sent in by anyone, individual or organisation, and the period for making such responses is likely to be over the summer recess (at time of writing this, the timescales are not published). The NNA will be responding to the call for evidence and will be encouraging other individuals, organisations and scientists to do the same.

After the summer recess, the HSCC will review the responses they have received. At this point, they may also invite some respondents to present in person to the HSCC on why they support/oppose the White Paper and what evidence they possess in support of their position.

At this point, the HSCC can remove or amend certain elements of the White Paper. Therefore, we will be interested in the removal of the proposed ban on vaping in public enclosed spaces. It is expected that the Public Health White Paper will then be presented back to the Welsh Assembly at the beginning of 2016 and a time allocated for it to be debated and voted upon. The actual vote is not likely to take place until February/March 2016.

It is important to note that whatever content is in the Public Health White Paper when it is voted on in 2016, it will be voted for in its entirety. Therefore, it is important in our view that the proposal to ban vaping in public enclosed spaces MUST be removed whilst it is with the HSCC at the tail end of 2015. It cannot be removed once it has been presented back to the Welsh Assembly. The AMs of all parties will be allowed a ‘free’ vote on the contents of the Public Health White Paper at that time.

If this sounds familiar, it is because it follows the exact same format of the TPD.

So, the steps/timescales in summary:

09-June-2015 Welsh Government Public Health White Paper is published

June-2015 Health & Social Care Committee issues a public call for evidence

Sept-2015 Health & Social Care Committee reviews the responses received

Oct-2015 Health & Social Care Committee may call in certain individuals/organisations to present their evidence in support/opposing certain proposals

Jan-2016 Public Health White Paper is returned to the Welsh Assembly

Feb/March-2016 Public Health White Paper is voted on and becomes law if passed

**NOTE: Above timescales are approximate as exact dates are not yet published. All above based on understanding of procedure as explained by various AMs

Simon Thurlow, NNA Trustee, Swansea