Update from the Lib Dems in Wales re the vaping ban…..

As the Public Health Bill progresses through the Assembly I thought it might be useful to update you on the proposal by the Welsh Labour Government (now with Plaid Cymru support) to outlaw the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

The Welsh Government had originally wanted to ban e-cigarettes from all enclosed public and work places but Labour’s health minister Mark Drakeford has now backed down from these plans in the face of opposition pressure, and the Health and Social Services Committee has passed amendments tabled by him listing places where the ban will apply.

Vaping will now only be allowed in pubs that serve drink but do not serve food as well, and where unaccompanied children are banned. Their use will also be restricted in schools, colleges, universities, train stations and on public transport, among other places.

The Welsh Government have said that workplaces not open to the public are also no longer captured by the restrictions, but stressed that these changes are proposals and others may be brought forward later.

As Welsh Liberal Democrats Leader, Kirsty Williams has said, the list is “as clear as mud”. She added: “Just because the minister has made a separation in law of the difference between tobacco and e-cigarettes does not mean that that’s how the public will view it”.

And when the fact that many pubs where vaping will be allowed serve pickled eggs, pork scratchings, packets of crisps on the bar etc was raised with him, the Minister was at pains to say that his amendments do not cover food of that sort.

The importance of any law of this kind is that it should be easily understandable and enforceable. Unfortunately, the way this bill is now framed means that it is far from passing that test. And of course there is still no evidence of harm from second-hand vapour to back up the measures. This law is going from bad to worse.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats will be bringing further amendments to the next stage of this bill to try and remove these restrictions on vaping.

In the meantime please keep up the pressure by lobbying other AMs and by sharing our petition by e-mail and social media – the link you need is http://www.welshlibdems.wales/ecigs.

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A crafty move by Mark Drakeford?

A lot has changed in the months since the Welsh Lib Dems started our fight against Labour’s illiberal vaping ban. Nine months, some rather tense Committee sessions, a hilariously embarrasing Government survey, plenty of emails to AMs and over 3,500 petition signatures later, we’ve succeeded in forcing Labour’s hand and watering down their original proposals.

 

Instead of a blanket ban in all enclosed public spaces in Wales, Mark Drakeford now only plans to ban vaping in a specific list of places. It seems that this list won’t form part of the legislation itself, however; it will instead be set out in regulations that will be passed separately to the Bill.

 

This is a crafty move on his part for two reasons. Firstly, it makes whatever list he comes up with much easier to change in the future. What may now include schools, public transport and establishments that serve food could be expanded much more widely with a lot less fuss than changing the law.

 

But secondly, and perhaps more crucially, this makes the entire Bill much easier to pass. Drakeford has said he needs to “work with others” to pass the Bill – those “others” I suspect are some Plaid Cymru AMs, who have been putting forward proposals very similar to what Labour now suggest.

 

The “others” certainly aren’t Welsh Liberal Democrats – we’ve been clear from the start in our opposition to these proposals. From a purely ideological perspective, as a liberal I’m uncomfortable with the idea of government banning something without clear evidence of the harm it could cause to others. But from looking at the evidence alone, it’s clear to me that the proposed vaping ban won’t just fail to improve public health – it could even lead to harm by preventing people from making the switch that many have made from tobacco cigarettes to the less harmful e-cigs.

 

It’s true that Welsh Liberal Democrats certainly couldn’t stomach any Bill that contained a vaping ban like the one we have in front of us. But the task of voting against this Bill is made a lot easier by the fact that, aside from some small changes to regulations around tattoos and piercings, this so-called “Public Health Bill” doesn’t actually achieve anything.

 

With so many public health issues facing our nation at the moment – obesity, cancer, heart disease to name but a few – is this Bill really the best that Labour can come up with? As it stands, the Bill does very little to solve any of these great public health challenges – and in the case of cancer, could even worsen the situation because of this vaping ban.

 

But we must not give up hope – there is still time to stop this ban in its tracks, but we all need to redouble our efforts in this fight. That’s why, as I write, we’re preparing campaign packs to send to vaping shops across Wales so they can do their bit in collecting petition signatures. If you haven’t yet added your name, you can do so by clicking here.

 

With your help, some determination and a bit of luck, I hope I’ll be writing on this blog in two months’ time in a Wales free of a vaping ban!

 

Kirsty Williams AM

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

 

The proposal to ban vaping in public in Wales. A comment by Darren Millar AM.

Darren Millar AM

Darren Millar AM

As smoking bans become more widespread around the world smokers are looking for alternatives that will allow them to continue to get their nicotine fix unabated and many have found a solution in electronic cigarettes.

Here in Wales, as is the case elsewhere in the UK, they are currently allowed just about anywhere in public – even where tobacco smoking is banned.

However, the Welsh Government’s public health white paper consultation, published last month, includes plans that would see Wales become the first part of the UK to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places.

Ministers say they are responding to concern that the devices normalise smoking and undermine the smoking ban.

Personally, I am unconvinced by the arguments for a public ban on e-cigarettes and I fear this would be a huge step backwards for quitters.

There is a clear danger that forcing someone who is using e-cigarettes to kick their habit to go outside into a smoker’s hut will put them in temptation’s way and harm their health due to second-hand smoke exposure.

We should be giving people a helping hand to quit – not yanking them backwards. Anything that stigmatises those working hard to improve their health should be very carefully examined.

Dr Pat Riordan, director of the Health and Healthcare Improvement Division, which runs Stop Smoking Wales, agrees. He has said “The last thing we want to do is alienate smokers who are using e-cigs in good faith as a part of their attempt to cut down or quit smoking.”

Public health guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence ‘Tobacco: harm-reduction approaches to smoking’ supports the use of licenced nicotine containing products to aid people in cutting down or quitting smoking.

And a recent BBC poll of nearly 1,000 people suggested most people supported the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

Professor John Britton, of the Royal College of Physicians has stated that if all the people in Britain who currently smoke traditional cigarettes switched to e-cigarettes, 5 million lives would be saved from smoking related deaths – a huge saving in not just unnecessary deaths but also many millions of pounds which would otherwise be spent on medical care and supporting a bereaved family.

Of course, quitting smoking would have the same effect, but it is clear that not every smoker could or would want to stop smoking.

A recent survey of more than 1,600 e-cigarette users found that 61% would return to tobacco if e-cigs were banned. With one person dying from smoking-related illness every 90 minutes in Wales and with smoking the biggest cause of avoidable ill health and early  death in the UK, surely it is better for people to be using e-cigarettes than the real thing.

E-cigarettes clearly work for 2.1million adults in the UK and the Welsh Government must bring forward the evidence behind their proposals to provide clarity on the justification for these proposals within the Public Health Bill.

People who choose to use e-cigarettes do so because they are trying to kick a very addictive and unhealthy habit. We should be supporting these people in their efforts as much as we can, not hindering them.

 

Please note Darren Millar wrote this piece in May of this year for his own blog, but has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here. 

We’ve had our say – what about you?

Welsh Government

 

We wrote to the Minister of Health and Social Services in Wales – here

This is the reply:

Yr Adran Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol Department for Health and Social Services

Dear Save e cigs,

Thank you for your e-mail of 2 April addressed to Mark Drakeford AM, Minister for Health and Social Services, regarding the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places.I have been asked to reply on this occasion.

The Public Health White Paper, which was launched on 2 April, recognises that ecigarettes, along with other forms of nicotine replacement therapy, may be helpful to smokers in giving up tobacco. However, we are concerned that the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places makes it difficult to enforce the current smoking ban, and may normalise smoking for a new generation.

As your email relates to proposals outlined in the Public Health White Paper, it will be forwarded as a consultation response to be considered alongside others submitted as part of the 12-week consultation period. Following this consultation about the Public Health White Paper proposals, a summary report will be published on the Welsh Government website. The Public Health White Paper is available at: http://wales.gov.uk/consultations/healthsocialcare/white-paper/?lang=en

I hope you have found my reply helpful.

Yours sincerely

Paul Haynes Government Business Team

 

Now, that long link in the letter is important if you are a Welsh vaper, or you run an e cig business in Wales. It’s the link to the White Paper that could impact your right to vape freely.

This what the White Paper is proposing –

“Public Health White Paper”
The ‘Listening to you – Your health matters’ White Paper sets out a series of proposals for legislation to help further improve and protect people’s health and wellbeing in Wales.
Start of consultation: 02/04/2014
End of consultation: 24/06/2014
The proposals cover a range of public health issues, including action to reduce the harms to health caused by smoking, alcohol misuse and obesity. They provide a set of practical actions which, when combined, aim to have a positive impact on health and wellbeing in Wales.
We published a Green Paper in 2012 on the need for a Public Health Bill, which showed broad support for legislation to further improve health and wellbeing. This White Paper builds on that and outlines how we are responding to the main messages received, both through the proposals in this White Paper and the Future Generations Bill.

The White Paper sets out how we will take steps to:

  • improve health over the life course through proposals to address the important public health issues of tobacco, alcohol misuse and obesity;
  • build community assets for health through proposals to strengthen the role of Local Health Boards when planning and delivering pharmaceutical services, and to improve provision and access to toilets for public use; and
  • improve the regulation of certain types of procedures such as cosmetic piercing and tattooing.

 Questions 6 – 11 of this White Paper are related to e cigarettes 

Our letter has been added as a reply to the consultation, and we clearly state that banning e cigs in public places is wrong. Now it’s your turn.  Click on the link in the letter, have a read, and submit your thoughts about vaping, as they will all count.

 

Dear Mr Drakeford…

This is our letter to Mr Drakeford AM, Welsh Government Health Minister, after the announcement today that e cigarettes are to be banned in public places.

wales

 

Dear Mr Drakeford,

Welsh Government proposals to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places

Professor John Britton, of The Royal College of Physicians, said: “If all the smokers in Britain stopped smoking cigarettes and started using e-cigarettes we would save five million deaths in people who are alive today. It’s a massive potential public health prize.”[1] It is therefore very disappointing that the Welsh Government is proposing a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces, substantially enclosed public places, and places of work in Wales.

This proposal is sadly typical of the thinking of those who appear hostile to e-cigarettes. They do not know very much about them and show very little interest in finding out more.

In your interview on the BBC Today Programme you stated that this proposal was made on the grounds that you believe nicotine to be a highly addictive and dangerous substance, that the use of e-cigarettes could re-normalise smoking, that they were targeted at young people, and that e-cigarettes could act as a gateway to smoking. When asked by the presenter what evidence you had for these concerns, you stated that you had none because e-cigarettes are still relatively new.

Robert West, Professor of health psychology and director of tobacco studies at University College London’s department of epidemiology and public health recently said: “E-cigarettes are about as safe as you can get. We know about the health risks of nicotine. Nicotine is not what kills you when you smoke tobacco. E-cigarettes are probably about as safe as drinking coffee. All that they contain is water vapour, nicotine, and propylene glycol (which is used to help vaporise the liquid nicotine).”[2]

As you correctly stated, there is no evidence that e-cigarette use re-normalises smoking, particularly when you consider that according to research produced by the University of East London[3] 72 per cent of e-cigarette users use products that are as about as far removed from looking like conventional cigarettes as possible.

Whilst there is no evidence that e-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking, there is evidence based research that shows they are not a gateway to smoking. Research, including a recent survey commissioned by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)[4], has shown time and time again that e-cigarettes are not attractive to young people, and are not used as a gateway to smoking tobacco cigarettes. Although awareness of e-cigarettes was widespread amongst young people aged 11 to 18, the ASH survey found no evidence that young people either used or perceived e-cigarettes as being a gateway to smoking.

Evidence produced by a variety of organisations including ASH and the American Cancer Society (ACS) clearly shows that flavours do not entice non-smokers to use e-cigarettes either, especially the young, as they have no interest in the product.

Researchers from the ACS[5] looked specifically into the enticement of flavours. They found that flavours did not increase the attractiveness of e-cigarettes to teenagers. Rather, “Even after controlling for other statistically significant correlates, the odds of a smoker being willing to try an e-cigarette were 10 times those of a non-smoker.”

Tobacco cigarettes are the gateway to tobacco smoking, not e-cigarettes.

Of course there must be a consideration of those who do not use e-cigarettes, but who would be impacted by second-hand vaping. However, research undertaken by Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos, M.D., Researcher, Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center, Athens Greece and Researcher, University Hospital Gathuisberg, Leuven, Belgium; and Professor Riccardo Polosa, Full Professor of Internal Medicine, University of Catania and

Scientific advisor for LIAF – Italian League for Anti-Smoking, has proven that there is no problem with passive vaping[6]. The research concluded, “Based on the existing evidence from environmental exposure and chemical analyses of vapor, it is safe to conclude that the effects of e-cigarette use on bystanders are minimal compared with conventional cigarettes.”

As you will be aware, this proposal does not have the support of the wider population. A recent poll by the BBC[7] found that 75 per cent of the public would be happy if their friends or family switched from smoking to using e-cigarettes, and 62 per cent of the public said that e-cigarettes should not be banned in public.

As a campaign representing the interests of e-cigarette users, their friends, and their families, we want to see e-cigarettes robustly regulated as the consumer products that they are. That is why we campaigned for a ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to those under the age of 18 and we publicly welcomed the decision of the Welsh Government to introduce such a ban. However, with a ban on the advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes soon to be introduced, following the passing of the Tobacco Products Directive, where are smokers to find out about e-cigarettes, particularly if they are banned in public places? Smokers need to see people using e-cigarettes in public, they need to be able to go up and speak to e-cigarette users so that they can find out further information and then hopefully make the switch to a safer alternative.

There are 10 million smokers in the UK and every year, according to the NHS, 114,000 people die from a tobacco related illness of which 5,450 of these deaths occur in Wales.[8]

Conventional nicotine replacement therapies are not tackling this number, but e-cigarettes could. Already 1.3 million smokers in the UK have either quit or cut down the amount they smoke by switching to e-cigarettes[9]. This should be a cause for celebration, not concern.

Sadly, far too many people who work in the public health sector and in the NHS seem more concerned with introducing counter-productive bans based on inaccurate or non-existent information than they are about staying focused on the bigger picture of seriously reducing the number of smoking related deaths.

Yours sincerely

Save  e cigs.

 

 

[1]The Independent Newspaper, 29 March 2013

[2] The Guardian Newspaper, 05 June 2013

[3] http://www.uel.ac.uk/psychology/staff/lynnedawkins/

[4] ASH surveyed 12,597 adults in 2010 – the questions focused on e-cigarette use and awareness in Great Britain. The preliminary survey was followed up by an additional study of adult smokers and non-smokers in February 2012 and more recently in 2013. ASH also surveyed children and young people aged 11 to 18 in March 2013.

[5] http://www.jahonline.org/article/S1054-139X(12)00409-0/fulltext

[6] Safety evaluation and risk assessment of electronic cigarettes as tobacco cigarette substitutes: a systematic review:

Konstantinos E. Farsalinos and Riccardo Polosa

published online 13 February 2014 Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24909648

[8] Public Health Wales Observatory (2012) – ‘Tobacco and health in Wales, 2012’ – available at http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/922/page/59800

[9] http://ash.org.uk/files/documents/ASH_715.pdf