Proposed e-cigarette ban in public places with children present defeated


Plans to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places where children are present have been defeated during a vote in the Welsh Assembly.

The Public Health (Wales) Bill aimed to restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in places such as schools, restaurants and cafes as well as on public transport.

But the contentious legislation was defeated by just one vote in the Senedd - handing the Labour government in Cardiff Bay a bitter defeat on the last day of Assembly business before May's election.

Opposition parties and even some health charities had strongly criticised the planned curb on e-cigarettess.

Shadow health minister and Conservative AM Darren Millar said a ban would have been a huge step backwards for smoking cessation and efforts to improve public health.

He said: "I'm delighted that pressure from the Welsh Conservatives and other opposition parties yielded results in the end.

"Labour ministers are totally misguided in their war on e-cigarettes and in the end their arrogant attempt to force a ban through were thwarted.

"There is no evidence supporting their plans and they should have been ditched months ago. Ultimately, we should be giving people a helping hand to quit smoking - not placing obstacles in their way"

Originally, ministers wanted to ban e-cigarettes from all enclosed public and work places.

However, its proposals were watered down to places where children were present after a committee report split Assembly Members' opinions.

Labour is one seat shy of an overall majority in the Senedd and needed other parties' backing before it can pass legislation.

Ahead of the vote on Tuesday evening, it was thought Plaid Cymru may lend its support - with the Welsh nationalists saying they would consider the plans "very carefully".

However, at the 11th hour Plaid joined forces with the Tories and Welsh Liberal Democrats - bringing the total votes against to 27, pipping the 26 votes in favour.

A Plaid spokeswoman said: "We proposed to Welsh Government that the Bill should be withdrawn before the vote and that the Assembly should be reconvened immediately after Easter to vote on a Bill with all sections on e-cigarettes removed. Plaid Cymru would have supported that legislation."

Pro smoking group Forest branded the e-cigarette ban as illogical.

A spokesman said: "Vapers are almost exclusively smokers who wish to cut down or quit or are looking for an alternative nicotine delivery system in places where smoking is banned.

"Given the a lack of evidence that the use of electronic cigarettes is harmful to users and bystanders, it would be hugely counter-productive to discourage the use of e-cigarettes in public places."

In its previous evidence to an Assembly committee, The British Heart Foundation called the legislation "heavy handed".

Health Minister and Labour AM Mark Drakeford said he was deeply disappointed the Bill would not pass onto the statute books.

He said: "It puts to waste five years of careful preparation and constructive work with a very wide range of stakeholders and supporters.

"There will be widespread anger that opposition parties, who had exerted a real influence on the Bill failed to support it into law and abandoned all the important protections for the public it would have put in place.

"They chose not to do so and they must answer for their conduct."

However, Welsh Lib Dem leader Kirsty Williams said: "Labour's illiberal plan flew in the face of medical evidence.

"When you've got a whole host of experts and charities like Cancer Research UK against you, you should realise you're on the wrong side of the argument."