Guest post by Jocelyn Davies AM Plaid Cymru

 

Jocelyn Davies AM

Jocelyn Davies AM

I believe that the Welsh Labour Government’s plan to make using an e-cigarette in an enclosed public space illegal is wholly wrong.

The e-cigarette ban will mean that vaping is treated exactly like smoking tobacco under the law. The Government risk stigmatising a new product that is helping many people reduce the amount they smoke and even give up altogether.

I have to declare a personal interest in this issue: I vape myself. I had previously been using lozenges to help me stop smoking, and had been for a long time. It was worry about the effect they were having on my teeth that prompted me to look into alternatives.

A huge amount of the growth in popularity of e-cigarettes has been fuelled by word-of-mouth. I was attending a conference and noticed two women sitting on the next sofa in the hotel lobby vaping. We fell into conversation about it and it was on their recommendation that I then went into an e-cigarette shop to get advice from them. If the Public Health (Wales) Bill passes in its current form, I would not have been able to talk to those women and the e-cigarette shop would not have been allowed to demonstrate their products to customers like me to show us how they work. I may never have discovered that e-cigarettes are, for me, a device that is incredibly successful in helping me continue not to smoke in the long-term.

If you’re a smoker, one advantage of a cigarette is that it’s a highly reliable way to deliver the nicotine fix you need. As long as you have a lighter, you can be pretty sure that your cigarette won’t fail. If you plan to use an e-cig to help you give up, you need reassurance that the device is similarly reliable and unless you’ve had a conversation and a demonstration of how they work, you’re unlikely to have faith in their reliability. Making e-cigarettes less visible and more difficult to get hold of will not promote public health. Far from the Government’s concerns that e-cigarettes normalise smoking, in my experience, seeing people vaping normalises the use of an effective tool to help you give up.

I admit that e-cigarettes are so new that little is known yet about the long-term impact they may have on health. I think it is important to remain sceptical about manufacturers’ claims that you can put a numerical value on exactly how much better for your health they are than smoking. We just don’t know yet. But Government policy should be based on evidence and so far there is no evidence to suggest that e-cigarettes are anything like as dangerous as smoking and plenty of evidence to show that they help people quit.

Of course, there are many places where you might want to restrict e-cigarette use. They are not appropriate everywhere. Some restaurants already stop their customers vaping inside and they should be free to do so. But to treat e-cigarettes exactly like tobacco, to make it an illegal offence to vape in a public place, is an entirely wrong-headed policy and totally out of line with people’s lived experiences. It shows a complete lack of understanding of the psychology of addiction and smoking. On this issue, the Health Minister is completely out of touch.

The ban on e-cig use is not something that should be snuck into a Bill on an unrelated topic, this is something that should stand alone. If Welsh Labour are committed to banning e-cigarettes, then they should put it in their manifesto and wait until after the election when they have a mandate from the electorate to act.

Finally, and this is a pretty radical question to ask, I wonder why we tolerate tobacco use at all anymore? We know how damaging tobacco is for public health, why not ban smoking altogether? We could encourage everyone to move to e-cigarettes instead. The Health Minister seems to be using e-cigs as his own tobacco substitute, banning them rather than banning cigarettes as perhaps he’d really like to.

The Welsh Labour Government’s knee-jerk reaction to a new technology that is helping many more people give up smoking is an unpopular mistake. I will be pressing the Health Minister to reconsider.

 

Note from the Editor:

A few people were concerned about Jocelyn’s comment re banning smoking. To clarify,, Jocelyn is not advocating a tobacco ban, she is merely speculating about the health minister’s reasons for a vape ban, and is making the point that vaping seems to his substitute for tobacco.

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5 thoughts on “Guest post by Jocelyn Davies AM Plaid Cymru

  1. “Finally, and this is a pretty radical question to ask, I wonder why we tolerate tobacco use at all anymore? We know how damaging tobacco is for public health, why not ban smoking altogether?”

    I really hope, from a personal point of view, that this is dry sarcasm. A former smoker suggesting a full ban on smoking is just strange.

  2. I agree with everything you say and in a way I’m glad I don’t live in Wales right now, but worry the stupidity will spread across the UK and beyond.

    As for restaurants being a vaper I do take sneaky drags but restrict blowing clouds of vapour everywhere. This is known as stealth vaping, you hold it in longer so nothing visible comes out. I do this purely for my nicotine fix without drawing attention to myself and upsetting others. Most vapers know this technique and there are plenty of devices that are discrete too (ie. not a cigalike with a glowing tip). There’s no smoke and no smell (or very little compared to choking tobacco smoke). So I find it hard to see how this law could be enforced. Stealth vaping is much less enjoyable, but if needs must…

    However this law would prevent smokers who haven’t tried e-cigs from even bothering switching as all they would see that they would still have to still stand outside in the cold (inhaling second hand smoke from smokers next to them). Also the current media and scares prevents them from switching, such as reports that e-cigs are more harmful than cigarettes.

    I have to admit making the switch wasn’t easy, I still craved for cigarettes for a while. After having a chest infection I decided I wouldn’t buy any more cigarettes and on Monday 1st October 2013 I had my last one. By Friday the cravings really kicked in, but I got through it. And I have never bought a pack again. Admittedly after a few drinks I’ve tried one given by someone else (to see what I was missing?) but I have always regretted it and found that it tastes foul.

    I never thought I would quit tobacco, I’ve tried in the past but relapsed so easily, partly because I didn’t really want to quit. This time I feel I’m cheating in a way, I’m getting my fix, it looks like I’m smoking but I’m not. And my chest feels better for it.

    And as for “Gateway to tobacco” statement that is put around far to often: this is total rubbish. It’s the 21st century. Some kids have always tried smoking since cigarettes were created purely for the nicotine hit (kids are kids). Now if they know they can get this same hit from e-cigs with less harm why would they even consider tobacco which tastes awful? (They may be stupid but not that stupid) They could have nice flavour from e-cigs. I’m not saying I agree with it, but they will always find a way. In my view it’s better a nice flavour of e-cig than more harmful tobacco. If e-cig flavours are restricted (Planned by the EU?) to non nice flavours then that WOULD be a gateway to tobacco. Restricting e-cigs would be a disaster.

    The electronic cigarette has become the most innovating product to come out in the 21st century, to be a real alternative to the traditional tobacco that has been used for years.

    This is not about quitting the habit, but more switching to a healthier alternative.

    Kind Regards

    Vincent Brindle
    Burnley
    Lancashire

  3. Intelligent article. I would take issue with the oft-repeated statement that e-cigs are such a new product that there is no way of judging the long-term health effects. I will have been a vaper for six years on 28.1.2016 and there are many who outrank me in that; no-one has ever died from the proper use of an e-cig in almost a decade – I find that reassurance enough. Incidentally I am a COPD/Asthma sufferer (doubtless due to 60+ years of smoking) and the effect on my health has been positive from day one and meds have been reduced drastically.
    I feel that the inclusion of e-cigarettes in legislation re. Tattoo Parlours and Toilets is political machination at its worst – no-one is forced to allow vaping on their premises but they should at least be allowed the choice.

  4. Could I respectfully point out, please, that it is not “manufacturers’ claims that you can put a numerical value on exactly how much better for your health they are than smoking”, it is a claim made by medical experts by and on behalf of Public Health England and published by PHE.

    Thank you.

  5. I have been cigarette free for a year now thanks to my ecig , The benefits are untold. Healthy happy and smelly smoke free.
    My home is fresh and my family are very proud of me.
    Even my dentist is over the moon as my teeth are fab too !!!!.
    My lungs are happy …no more struggling to work overtime when walking up our very steep hill….
    I simply don’t understand the ”powers that be” trying to get something banned which is literally changing peoples lives for the better….WHY ???????? !!!!!!!……

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