The much publicised and heavily debated proposed bill to ban the use of e-cigarettes in a number of public places in Wales was defeated by a solitary vote in the Welsh Assembly on Thursday!
The bill, which would have been the first in UK to legislate specifically against banning electronic cigarette use in public places was expected to pass by Health Minister Mark Drakeford as late as Wednesday evening, however a dramatic change of heart by Plaid Cymru politicians at the last minute – led to the motion being voted down by the narrowest of margins - 27 to 26.
The Public Health (Wales) Bill sought to restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in public places such as schools, restaurants and on public transport; however it met an incredible amount of opposition from political parties, health charities, the vaping community and general public at-large.
Specifically, the British Heart Foundation called the legislation "heavy handed" and Cancer Research UK was against the proposal.
Shadow health minister and Conservative AM Darren Millar said a ban would have been a huge step backwards for smoking cessation and efforts to improve public health. He said "There is no evidence supporting their plans and they should have been ditched months ago. Ultimately, we should be giving people a helping hand to quit smoking - not placing obstacles in their way"
Health Minister and Labour AM Mark Drakeford said he was deeply disappointed the Bill would not pass onto the statute books. However, Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "Labour's illiberal plan flew in the face of medical evidence. When you've got a whole host of experts and charities against you, you should realise you're on the wrong side of the argument."
At Gamucci we have followed this story from it's start back in July 2015, reporting on events a number of times – so it is extremely pleasing that the Welsh Assembly has heeded the advice of the medical community, public health experts and the general public in making this landmark decision to vote down the first bill of it's type in the United Kingdom.
George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager for Cancer Research UK, who we quoted back in July summed up why so much was at stake in this decision: "E-cigarettes are an opportunity for people to move away from tobacco smoking which is very, very bad for their health, and we wouldn't want to put up any barriers to prevent people from quitting cigarettes."
Public perception of e-cigarettes presents one of the most difficult obstacles for electronic cigarettes brands like Gamucci with research showing as much 60% of the general public wrongly believing e-cigarettes to be at last as harmful as tobacco, and legislation like this one only seem to encourage this opinion. Whereas Public Health England state that electronic cigarettes are at least 95% safer than tobacco smoking and research has demonstrated they do not show evidence of issues with second-hand smoke.