Electronic cigarettes
are to be banned in enclosed public spaces and workplaces as part of radical health plans announced by the Welsh government. The law, likely to come into force in 2017 would be the first in the UK, and is proving hugely controversial amongst producers, campaign groups and millions of e-cigarette users. In taking the decision to bring in this legislation, ministers have argued they did not want to take the risk of seeing smoking "normalised" again after the success of the smoking ban.

The new tobacco and e-cigarette measures will mean:

    • Shops will have to join a register for retailers of tobacco and e-cigarettes - aimed at stopping illegal sales to under-18s
    • It will be an offence to "hand over" tobacco and e-cigarettes to children - and this will include online sales
    • A restricted use of e-cigarettes, banning them in enclosed public spaces and workplaces - this will include lorries and taxis

The final measure is proving the most controversial and is likely to come into force in 2017, but a precise date has not been given.

In a public consultation on the proposals last year, 79% of responses were opposed to the legislation. Most of the opposition has focused around concerns that it might make it more difficult for smokers to switch to e-cigarettes as a way of stopping smoking. It is however worth noting that Gamucci does not market products as quit smoking devices, instead as simply an alternative to tobacco.

Announcing the measures at the Two Hearts Tattoo Studio in the Welsh capital, the health and social services minister, Mark Drakeford, said the laws aimed to protect the health and wellbeing of people living in Wales.

He explained: “The Welsh government has a responsibility to create the conditions which enable people to live healthy lives and avoid preventable harm to their health. Wales has a strong tradition of using legislation to improve public health and I am confident the measures in the public health bill will continue this.

“We want to get the balance right between all the things that would make a big difference to people’s health and wellbeing in the future while not wanting to intrude on the legitimate rights people have to run their own lives.”

It is estimated that more than 2.1 million people in the UK use e-cigarettes.

However the legislation has met much disapproval, with campaigners and e-cigarette users heavily criticising the decision. Anti-smoking campaign group ASH Wales, Cancer Research UK and Tenovus are among those opposed and the British Heart Foundation, British Lung Foundation and Royal College of Physicians want more evidence.

George Butterworth, tobacco policy manager for Cancer Research UK, said there was no evidence of normalisation of e-cigarettes with young people - and those using them were "very, very small numbers". "Those that are, are the type of people who would try alcohol or tobacco cigarettes anyway - so without that evidence we wouldn't support a ban on the use of e-cigarettes indoors under the idea of normalisation," he said.

"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."

Action on Smoking and Health (ASH), a charity that works to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco, said it did not support the sort of ban proposed by the Welsh government.

It said there was emerging evidence that e-cigarettes helped people quit smoking and there was little evidence they encouraged “never smokers” to take it up. A spokesperson said: “We think they should be appropriately regulated. That does not include banning in public places.”

Vicky Grant, a spokesperson for the Electronic Cigarette Industry Trade Association, said she believed the Welsh government was acting out of misguided concern. “I think it’s a misunderstanding of the product,” she said.

Grant explained that there is a growing body of scientific evidence that suggested e-cigarettes were much less harmful than cigarettes and help smokers quit. She claimed a ban in Wales would add to the uncertainty many people had about e-cigarettes. 

Rob Lyons, campaigns manager for the group Action on Consumer Choice, said: “E-cigarettes are widely recognised as much safer than tobacco cigarettes both for users and those around them. Banning e-cigarettes from public enclosed spaces and workplaces would take away one of their major attractions to potential users – they can be used where cigarettes can’t – and wrongly implies they are dangerous. It’s hard to think of a more irrational policy in terms of promoting health.”

Response online to the ban has been larely negative with thousands of tweets in the past few hours criticising the decision.

Let us know what you think in the comments about this decision.

[Quotes sourced from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-33025872 - http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/jun/09/wales-e-cigarette-ban Image: http://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/624/media/images/83499000/jpg/_83499616_ecigarettescorrect1.jpg]