Peter Black, assembly member for South Wales, has questioned Swansea Council’s inclusion of e-cigarettes in a smoking ban consultation, arguing that e-cigarettes should not be equated with tobacco.
Public smoking ban
Earlier this year the Royal Society for Public Health said the public smoking ban should be extended to beer gardens and outside restaurants, parks and school gates.
The Welsh Government’s Public Health Bill allows Welsh ministers to outlaw smoking in public places. The priority is to make hospital grounds, school grounds and children’s playgrounds smoke free - but this could include areas of beer gardens.
Swansea Council said it hasn’t made any decisions about smoking or the use of e-cigarettes in public places, but wants to encourage debate about voluntary smoke-free areas in public places which go beyond current legislation - aiming to discourage smoking.
'Prevention better than cure'
A spokesman said: “Prevention is better than cure and if we can discourage people from smoking cigarettes or using e-cigarettes in public places it’ll help encourage the next generation of potential smokers not to take up either habit in the first place.”
The Welsh Government also announced this year that from 2017 the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces and workplaces, including pubs, will be illegal – a decision met by fierce opposition from the pub industry.
Black supported his criticism of the latest consultation with research from Public Health England, which concluded that e-cigarettes help smokers quit and are 95% less harmful than smoking.
"I am surprised that Swansea Council has included e-cigarettes in their consultation on banning smoking in public spaces,” he said.
“In doing so they are equating vaping with smoking and failing to recognise the role that e-cigarettes have had in helping people to give up tobacco.
"I understand that some people may object to e-cigarettes in the same way as they do to tobacco. However there is no evidence of any harm to others from the water vapour that emanates from e-cigarettes and the council should not encourage people to believe differently.
"I am not and have never been a smoker but I recognise the role that e-cigarettes play in helping people to give up and that helps people become fitter and reduces demand for health and social services, meaning resources can be directed elsewhere. I would hope that the council might have recognised that."
The consultation has almost 600 responses. The responses will be considered by a Cabinet Advisory Committee before it makes a recommendation on what steps, if any, the council could take.
The consultation runs until 25 October and can be found at www.swansea.gov.uk/haveyoursay