Wales politics

E-cigarettes: Partial ban on use in public places wins AMs' support

E-cigarette Image copyright Getty Images

AMs have backed a proposed ban on e-cigarettes in some public places.

The Welsh government has won support from some Plaid Cymru AMs for the measure after ministers watered down the ban to places where children are likely to be present.

There are worries the devices may re-normalise smoking, but critics say there is not enough evidence for the measure.

A Liberal Democrat bid to scrap the e-cigarette ban failed on Tuesday.

The final vote on the Public Health Bill takes place next week.

If the bill is passed the e-cigarette ban could come in by spring 2017 at the earliest.

Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams told Tuesday's Senedd debate: "I have been inundated by people in my own consistency and across Wales who have successfully kicked life-long smoking habits with the use of this device."

The Lib Dem bid was supported by the Welsh Conservatives. Darren Millar, Tory shadow health minister, said: "There is more evidence of harm from smoke from a piece of burnt toast than there is of evidence of harm from the use an e-cigarette."

Some Plaid AMs have said they would support the government's regulations.

Elin Jones, Plaid AM for Ceredigion, told the debate she had been persuaded of a need for a partial ban because of the issue of normalisation and "for the sake of clarity for the people of Wales and owners of public areas".

But Plaid had a free vote and the group was split, with some AMs in the party including Lindsay Whittle supporting the Lib Dems.

In response, Health Minister Mark Drakeford said: "In what way would we not wish to prevent the risk of our children being drawn into nicotine dependence, and from nicotine dependence into dependence on tobacco itself?"

Originally the government wanted to ban e-cigarettes from all enclosed public and work places.

But a committee report found AMs were divided, with Plaid's Elin Jones suggesting imposing less stringent restrictions on e-cigarettes than those on tobacco.

Image copyright OSTILL
Image caption The divided opinions in response to the initial proposals

A compromise was later added to the bill that would see the devices restricted to schools, hospitals, train and bus stations and places selling food, among other locations.

Hospitals will be able to designate certain areas to be exempt from the regulations.

AMs on Tuesday voted to extend the reach of the ban to cover a number of other venues, including shops, public libraries, sports grounds and centres, and entertainment venues such as zoos and cinemas.

Pubs that do not serve food are specifically excluded, as are sex establishments, casinos, betting shops, adult gaming centres, premises with a bingo licence, specialist retailers of e-cigarettes, and pharmacy consulting rooms.

The bill also includes measures on the licensing of tattooists and for councils to produce a local toilets strategy.

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