E-cigs to be banned in public places including pubs, restaurants and offices in Wales

Wales says 'vapes' are providing gateway to tobacco for children

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The Independent Online

Using e-cigarettes in enclosed public places including pubs, restaurants and offices will be banned, under plans drawn up by the Welsh government.

The proposals would extend the smoking ban in Wales to e-cigarettes, amid concerns that so-called 'vapes' are providing a "gateway" to tobacco for children.

Welsh Health Minister Mark Drakeford said e-cigarettes risked "re-normalising smoking".

The proposals, likely to come into force in 2017, form part of a new Public Health Bill, which also aims to make it illegal to hand over tobacco to under 18s as well as introducing licensing laws for tattooists.

It would be the first such law to ban e-cigarettes from public places in the UK, though vaping bans have been introduced in parts of mainlands Europe.

Professor Drakeford, a member of the ruling Labour administration, said: "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.

"It will prevent the re-normalisation of smoking.

"We have worked so hard in Wales to try and bear down on the harm that smoking does - and allowing e-cigarettes to be used in the way they currently are risks undoing the progress that has been made.

"Last year, 5,450 people in Wales died last as a result of diseases that happened simply because they became addicted to tobacco.

"The Welsh Government has a responsibility to create the conditions which enable people to live healthy lives and avoid preventable harm to their health."

Smoking was banned in enclosed public places in the 2000s and tobacco has continued to rise in price - contributing to the boom in e-cigarette use.

Anti-smoking group Ash estimates there are now 2.6 million 'vapers' in the UK - with e-cigarette firms frequently marketing their products as being a cheaper and less harmful alternative to conventional smoking.

But the European Society of Cardiology recently warned that while e-cigarettes may be "moderately effective" in helping smokers quit, they needed the same restrictions as cigarettes to avoid uptake by young people and non-smokers.

ESC spokesman Professor Joep Perk said: "Smoking of all types is still, without any competition, the strongest risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

"It beats everything. There has been a lot of research over the past two to three years which makes us very clear that all tobacco use, including the waterpipe, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, is simply not good for your health."

Welsh Government officials say other schemes in the Public Health Wales Bill also includes a national register of tobacco and nicotine products retailers as well as making it illegal to hand over tobacco or nicotine products to under-18s - for example via home delivery services.

A spokesman added: "There are also plans to create a compulsory, national licensing system in relation to acupuncture, body piercing, electrolysis and tattooing."

Professor Drakeford said: "This bill follows last year's consultation on our Public Health White Paper. We have made changes to all areas following the consultation process and the valuable feedback we received.

"We want to get the balance right between all the things that would make a big difference to people's health and well-being in the future while not wanting to intrude on the legitimate rights people have to run their own lives."

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Ruth Hussey welcomed stricter controls on piercing and the licensing of tattooists.

She said: "There are well-known health risks associated with skin piercing procedures if they are carried out unhygienically and this Bill will ensure that only those with safe working practices can carry out these procedures."

Lee Clements, Welsh representative of the British Tattoo Artists Federation and owner of Chameleon Tattoo in Barry, said clearer rules were needed.

"It's incredibly important to bring in stricter legislation and licensing to the tattoo industry.

"Currently, anybody can register a tattoo studio and operate without any experience or any hygiene training whatsoever.

"Most good professional studios are running at a high level of hygiene anyway. But it only takes that one bad studio or home tattooist to do something bad that ends up in the media.

"And what happens is that all of us end up being tarred with the same brush."

Press Association