E-cigarettes 'may undermine smoking ban in Wales'

E-cigarettes Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are few restrictions on the use of e-cigarettes throughout the UK

The use of electronic cigarettes in public places may undermine the ban on smoking in Wales by "re-normalising" the culture of smoking, ministers fear.

More than 50 researchers are urging the World Health Organization (WHO) not to suppress e-cigarettes but to consider them a "significant health innovation".

The Welsh government is consulting the public on the use of e-cigarettes.

It does not propose a ban but said any use may encourage young people to take up "that addictive and harmful habit".

Health legislation proposals from the Welsh government include making Wales the first part of the UK to ban the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed public places.

Electronic cigarettes, which allow users to inhale nicotine in a vapour, have become increasingly popular.

But there is concern that not enough is known about their long-term effects and there are calls for advertising restrictions.

Enclosed public spaces

The WHO is considering what recommendations it should make to governments around the world about how to regulate e-cigarettes.

In an open letter, the researchers, including British experts on tobacco control, say the devices should be seen as part of the solution not the problem because they offer an alternative to smoking.

But the UK's Faculty of Public Health said it was too early to know whether the reduction in harm from using e-cigarettes instead of smoking was greater than the potential risks.

Richard Evans, vice chairman of the Welsh Pharmacy Board, which is part of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales, believes they should be regulated in the same way as traditional cigarettes.

"At the moment the products that are on the market - we don't know what standard they are. They can vary from product to product - there is no uniformity at all.

"Also we believe more research needs to be done to build a fuller picture of their use."

The Welsh government said its White Paper on public health does not in any way interfere with the use of e-cigarettes as an aid to giving up smoking.

It said: "It (the White Paper) asks for views and further evidence on the idea that restricting their use in enclosed public spaces would be beneficial to public health in Wales.

"We are concerned the use of e-cigarettes in public places may undermine the current smoking ban in Wales.

"There is a risk their use in public places is re-normalising smoking behaviours and may encourage young people to take up that addictive and harmful habit."

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

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