E-cigarettes face curb in public places in Wales

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Media captionHealth Minister Mark Drakeford said the aim was to address some of the nation's major public health challenges

Wales could be 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 - which can contain nicotine - normalise smoking and undermine the smoking ban.

A minimum alcohol price of 50p per unit is also proposed in a white paper of ideas for public health legislation.

Health Minister Mark Drakeford said the aim was to address some of the nation's major public health challenges.

"Taking concerted, collective action to address public health concerns remains one of the most powerful contributions any government can make to the welfare and wellbeing of its population," he said.

"Alcohol and tobacco contribute to many life-threatening illnesses and are major causes of persistent inequalities in health.

"I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes on the enforcement of Wales' smoking ban. That's why we are proposing restricting their use in enclosed public places.

"I am also concerned that their use in enclosed public places could normalise smoking behaviour.

"E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and I want to minimise the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to this drug."

However Richard Filbrandt, e-cigarette user and co-owner of the Vibrant Vapour cafe in Carmarthen, said they had studies showing there was no risk to passive smokers.

"There are studies done by Air for Change in America that say it doesn't warrant withdrawing them from public places, and they are the same people that said take cigarettes away from public places," he told BBC News.

"Why should we be treated like smokers? Why should we be put out at risk of passive smoking ourselves in a smoking area when we do not smoke?"

Welsh Conservatives described the ban as a "step backwards" for quitters.

Stiffer penalties

Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar said: "There is a clear danger that forcing someone outside into a smoker's hut will put them in temptation's way and harm their health due to second-hand smoke exposure."

On the subject of alcohol, Mr Drakeford said there was "indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters".

"It's no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has increased substantially, so has alcohol-related death and disease," he said.

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Media captionAre e-cigarettes safe? (Report first published February 2013)

"A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses."

Other proposals in the white paper, which will be subject to consultation, include;

  • a tobacco retailers' register with stiffer penalties for those selling to under 18s
  • whether to make it an offence to deliver tobacco ordered online to someone under 18, even if the item was ordered by an adult
  • a national register of tattooists and providers of cosmetic piercing in order to improve regulation and set cleanliness and hygiene standards
  • requiring local authorities to develop a strategy to ensure toilets are publically available in local communities

Chief Medical Officer Dr Ruth Hussey said: "On the seventh anniversary of the smoking ban, it is symbolic that Wales is once again at the forefront of a new set of radical proposals to improve public health."

The white paper - Listening to you: Your health matters - is open to consultation until 24 June.

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