Wales’ Labour government is to consider banning the smoking of so-called ‘e-cigarettes’ in public places, in case it makes smoking in public look acceptable.
Speaking to the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Welsh health minister Mark Drakeford said: “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.”
Although the health risks of e-cigarettes have yet to be proven, the Welsh government want to introduce the ban regardless, saying that they may act as a ‘gateway’, with users moving on to trying normal cigarettes.
“We are concerned that they might act as a gateway to conventional cigarettes. It contains nicotine, it’s highly addictive and you might then find it easier to move on to conventional cigarettes,” the minister said.
E-cigarettes work by delivering a nicotine mist through a pipe often shaped like a conventional cigarette. The design was first patented in 1963, but they have only become popular in recent years as governments around the world prohibit smoking in enclosed public places.
Katie Knight, Campaign Manager, Save E-cigs told Breitbart London: “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.
“As the Minister himself admitted, there is no evidence that e-cigarettes re-normalise smoking or are a gateway to smoking.
“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.”
The Welsh government’s proposal conflicts with the views of some anti-smoking campaigners, who see e-cigarettes as potentially beneficial, allowing smokers to move over to a much less harmful way to get a tobacco fix as they try to quit.
Prominent anti-smoking pressure group ASH has stated that it considers e-cigarettes to be healthier than normal tobacco. In May last year they issued a statement saying: “ASH believes that e-cigarettes can provide a less harmful alternative for smokers who want to cut down or quit smoking…”
Chief Executive Deborah Arnott said at the time that they “offer a potentially safer option for smokers wishing to reduce their risk of ill-health from tobacco use.”
She stuck by those comments today, saying: “The concern that electronic cigarettes may be a gateway into smoking is understandable. However, this is not borne out by the evidence so far from England, where our research shows that their use is almost without exception only amongst current and ex-smokers.
“There is growing evidence that they are effective in helping smokers quit and this is to be welcomed.”