Drakeford’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced they intend to ban smoking from ban smoking from all school, hospital grounds and public grounds.
He said: “We will continue to take steps to de-normalise this habit and provide a very clear message for children. The evidence that smoking is harmful and damaging is clear cut and our message must be too. The restrictions for hospital grounds will promote behaviour change and support smoking cessation among smokers who use our hospital sites and services.
“Whilst the evidence on smoking and COVID-19 is still emerging, smokers generally have an increased risk of contracting respiratory infections, such as COVID-19, and so the introduction of these requirements are supporting our response to the pandemic.
“We are committed to our longer-term goal of making more of Wales’ public spaces smoke-free, helping people to make positive changes to not only their own lives, but also to the health and well-being of their children and families.”
The explanatory memorandum accompanying the Act states that the intention is “to improve health and well-being in Wales”. Part of this entails possibly removing the exclusion of home dwellings used as places of work: “The effect of removing these exclusions within the 2020 Regulations is that all types of work activities will be included in the assessment of whether a dwelling is a workplace and therefore more of those work places will be required to be smoke-free.”
More perturbing, there is a proposal for mental health units (MHUs). “The permission to designate a room for smoking within the premises would expire 18 months after the regulations come into effect.”
Given the high rate of smoking in MHU patients, a number of settings in England are embracing vaping to aid the units achieving smoke-free status. Rather than instructing the MHUs in Wales to adopt a similar approach, Mark Drakeford appears to be returning to his failed plans to crack down on vaping - only this time through omission.
In March, Public Health England issued guidance about the use of vaping in mental health settings. It stated: “E-cigarettes are effective in helping smokers to quit, especially when combined with behavioural support. E-cigarettes are not covered by smokefree legislation and there is no evidence that passive exposure can cause harm other than to people with pre-existing respiratory conditions.”
Drakeford’s proposals aren’t set in stone yet, there is still time for Welsh Labour to get on board with the tobacco harm reduction carrot rather than focus solely on the prohibition stick.
- Advice Update to Mental Health Organisations – [link]