In April, Doctor Ruth Hussey, the chief medical officer of Wales, said: “E-cigarettes could normalise smoking among a generation which has grown up in a largely smoke-free society.” There is little by way of evidence to support her stance although research by Professor Robert West, as part of the Smoking Toolkit Study, strongly refutes any link.
Her position is based on this study and lies at odds with the scientists who carried it out. They concluded that incidents of non-smokers taking up vaping is very small and stated there is “no evidence it’s a gateway to smoking.”
Hussey’s position feeds into the agenda-driven stance adopted by Welsh Labour as they continue the selective use of research. “E-cigs face ban for ‘re-normalising smoking’,” roared Rupert Murdoch’s Sky News before stating: “Wales' Health Minister Mark Drakeford said e-cigarettes were a ‘gateway’ to deadly tobacco.”
"We have worked so hard in Wales to try and bear down on the harm that smoking does,” said Drakeford, “and allowing e-cigarettes to be used in the way they currently are risks undoing the progress that has been made.”
Drakeford has continued his war on electronic cigarettes by announcing this week that he intends to ban smoking and e-cigarettes from hospital grounds and school grounds.
In addition to banning vaping from work places and enclosed public areas, Drakeford also wishes to push through moves to ban vaping from hospital grounds as a misguided part of a ban on smoking.
Despite being painted as gleefully supporting the measures, ASH Wales’ position is confined to banning cigarettes. “With the e-cigarette proposals in the Public Health Bill, we want to see more evidence before any firm decision is made on that issue,” a spokesperson said.
Bizarrely, Drakeford is open to the idea of allowing vaping to take place on film sets and in pharmacy consulting rooms, “if e-cigarettes were legitimately being used as part of smoking cessation.” Vapers might wonder how one uses an ecig illegitimately?
The Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services has chosen to ignore the responses he received from experts as part of a public consultation into the matter:
- ASH: “It may have a negative impact upon current smokers who may otherwise have attempted to quit or harm reduce, potentially damaging rather than enhancing public health.”
- British Heart Foundation Wales: “At this time, we do not believe that a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes in enclosed spaces can be justified, based on the evidence currently available.”
- Cancer Research UK: “Currently there is insufficient evidence to introduce a ban on the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public spaces or workspaces.”