Wales politics

E-cigarette restrictions in Wales 'not backed by evidence'

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWelsh ministers have been urged to rethink plans to restrict the use of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes should not be banned in public places in Wales, opposition parties have said, after a report for English health chiefs said they were 95% less harmful than tobacco.

Experts said e-cigarettes prescribed on the NHS could help smokers quit.

Welsh Tory Darren Millar said any ban would be a "huge step backwards" while Lib Dem Kirsty Williams said the report "contradicts all of Labour's rhetoric".

The Welsh government said it felt e-cigarettes may "re-normalise" smoking.

The proposals to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in Wales have divided opinion among health and medical groups.

'Helping hand'

Public Health England said it was "committed to ensure that smokers have a range of evidence-based, effective tools to help them to quit".

One of the report's authors, Prof Ann McNeill from King's College London, said the annual English death toll from smoking of 80,000 could be cut to 4,000 or less if all smokers switched to e-cigarettes.

"If I was running a stop-smoking service, I would encourage people who are interested in trying e-cigarettes to have a go," she said.

Image copyright OSTILL
Image caption The divided opinions in Wales in response to the initial proposals in 2014

Mr Millar, the Welsh Conservatives' shadow health minister, said the report provided "yet more evidence" that Labour ministers in Wales were "very wrong" to try to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in public places.

"We should be giving people a helping hand to ditch the smoking habit - not placing obstacles in their way," he said.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: "The truth is that Labour want to ban e-cigarettes because it doesn't like them, rather than basing the decision on evidence - it's as simple as that."

She added: "Labour ministers in Wales need to take heed of the evidence that is stacking up against them and scrap these proposals at once."

Plaid Cymru health spokesperson Elin Jones said: "The evidence that e-cigarettes could 're-normalise' smoking needs to be strong before we would be able to support a ban on their use in public places."

The Welsh government said it welcomed the report but defended its plans to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in line with conventional cigarettes.

"We are concerned the use of e-cigarettes may re-normalise smoking, especially for a generation who have grown up in a largely smoke-free society," a spokesperson said.

"We are not alone in our concerns - the World Health Organisation and other international bodies have called for greater regulation of e-cigarettes and 40 other countries have already taken similar steps.

"Our Bill does not aim to prevent the use of e-cigarettes for those seeking to give up conventional smoking."

Related Topics

More on this story