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Report from National Assembly for Wales Health and Social Care Committee on Public Health (Wales) Bill

The NNA is disappointed to see, in the report released today, that the Welsh Health and Social Care Committee (https://www.assembly.wales/laid%20documents/cr-ld10456/cr-ld10456-e.pdf) has failed to make a concrete recommendation to remove the proposal to ban electronic cigarette use in enclosed public spaces from the Public Health (Wales) Bill. The lengthy content of the report clearly demonstrates the split in opinion between Labour and opposition AM’s despite overwhelming evidence against any proposed ban provided by the leading experts in the field of tobacco harm reduction. We will now watch the plenary debate on the 8th December with interest for possible amendments to the Bill.

No compelling evidence is put forward by the Welsh Government to proceed with the ban. The proposals relating to nicotine products will not contribute to improving public health in Wales – rather, the opposite.

Usage bans are not a matter for government, but for individual business and premises managers to decide for themselves whether to allow the use of e-cigarettes on their property. Smokers who wish to switch to safer products should be supported and encouraged to do so.

The Welsh Government aims to reduce smoking prevalence to 16% by 2020. This will not be achieved without embracing and supporting tobacco harm reduction products. Policies should ensure that those who choose to use e-cigarettes to help them quit are supported rather than prevented in their choice of how to quit smoking. Simon Thurlow, Trustee of NNA said ‘Bans act as a deterrent to those who wish to quit smoking by vaping, and stigmatises e-cigarette users in the same way that smokers are stigmatised’.

Why it is wrong to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public enclosed spaces

Smoke free legislation was enacted in order to protect employees and the public from the harmful effects of second hand smoke. With e-cigarettes there is no combustion and therefore no smoke. There is no evidence of any potential for harm to bystanders from e-cigarette use.

Compliance with existing smoke free legislation is high, and the use of e-cigarettes does not undermine this. E-cigarettes are easily distinguishable from tobacco cigarettes by appearance and smell. The general public is well acquainted with e-cigarettes and there is little chance of confusion by premises’ staff. The ability to use an e-cigarette where smoking is not permitted gives smokers a legal alternative and will assist in delivering greater compliance with smoke-free legislation.

Use of e-cigarettes differs from smoking tobacco cigarettes. Nicotine delivery is lower from e-cigarettes than tobacco cigarettes. A smoker will smoke an entire cigarette in a few minutes and then not again until nicotine levels have dropped. An e-cigarette user takes a few puffs every few minutes to keep nicotine levels up and prevent cravings.   Forcing e-cigarette users to go outside to vape, where they will be among smokers and in time limited situations, may encourage them to relapse to smoking.

Sarah Jakes of NNA said ‘The ability to use e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces is important in many smokers’ decision to try e-cigarettes, and leads many to switch completely. A ban discourages smokers from making the complete switch to the safer alternative’.

Contact: Simon Thurlow

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30 Nov 2015