Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services is apprehensive that electronic cigarettes may make smoking more acceptable and opines that tougher laws to regulate the product may be the need of the hour. Drakeford says that their decision in Wales will be based on evidence and all necessary legislation will be put in place once the evidence is clear.
He expressed his anxiety about these electronic devices during the programme Sunday Politics that aired on BBC Wales. At the same time, he refrained from contesting the claims of e-cigarette advocates that e-cigs could aid smokers’ efforts to quit the habit.
The parliament in England is already working to ban the sale of e-cigs to those below the age of 18, a ban which could extend to Wales as well if passed in the assembly.
E-cigarette users inhale nicotine-containing vapour instead of the smoke laced with harmful chemicals produced by tobacco cigarettes.
When it comes to aiding smokers’ efforts to quit, recent studies have found e-cigs to be no less effective than nicotine patches.
Wales has imposed a ban on smoking in public places since 2007.
Drakeford points out that e-cigarettes, which contain the addictive substance, nicotine, are gaining in popularity and may make smoking more acceptable as a part of normal behaviour and could even glamorise the habit.
In reply to a query he stated that there is a strong case for bringing e-cigs under the same strict regulatory restrictions as are applicable to tobacco cigarettes.
He drew attention to the fact that places like New Zealand already treat e-cigarettes as medicines, to be sold only through pharmacies. He accepts that the product is relatively new and there have been no comprehensive, clinical studies on their effects.
Drakeford recognises the need to involve all stakeholders before deciding the way forward. A white paper on the topic of public health which is to be released soon is expected to spell out the proposals in this regard.
The government in Wales, through a publicity campaign, has been urging people to desist from smoking in cars when children are also travelling and will use the feedback from this exercise to consider enacting legislation to prevent this.
England’s House of Lords has supported the changes in the Children and Families Bill which were necessary to enact the ban on sale of e-cigs to young people.