Since my guest blog about the proposed bill which contained the proposals to ban vaping in pretty much every enclosed public space in November, the Heath & Social Care Committee have been busy, as well as the Welsh Assembly as a whole.
Some of you followers of Vapers in Power may have seen the video summary of recent events in Welsh vaping politics on VapourTrails TV. If you have yet to see it, please watch it HERE!
Since that video was shared, a further twist to the tale has come to light. On January 19th 2016, the Health Minister, Mark Drakeford AM, has his amendments published on the Welsh Assembly website. You can see the entire 44 page document HERE, if you dare. Is there anything strange that you notice? No prizes for those who figure it out.
Yes that’s it. The entire 44 page document is dedicated to the control of vaping, or as the Health Minister calls them “Nicotine Inhaling Devices (NIDs)”. This clearly suggest that he is on a one-man crusade to eradicate smoking and nicotine use in Wales. This is no way to go about it. When there is an avenue for nicotine use for those addicted, in a much safer form, banning its use is no way to improve public health.
After the Stage 1 vote, the Health Minister posted these tweets himself.
Well, yet again the “Think of the children” avenue of pushing legislation through is being used. However, you may begin to think that he’s dropped the workplaces part of the original draft. Even at point of writing, a few of us are still struggling to find anything explicit relating to workplaces. You must remember that workplaces and public places cross over with vape shops. This is still a concern that there is no exemption for vape shops under “NID-free” premises.
Speaking of “NID-free” premises, there is a massive addition to the PH Bill describing different types specifically in his Amendment 221. He is also looking to extend the most recent smoking related legislation on smoking in private vehicles with children under 18, by wanting to include vaping in Amendments 156 and 157. You can obviously realise the lack of thought which has been applied. Currently, the police have enough issues enforcing the current smoking in cars legislation by confusing vaping, which is exempt, with smoking. If this sneaky way of banning vaping in cars with children, Welsh vapers can be lumped with many fines. THAT IS GROSSLY UNFAIR!!
To carry on logically and in amendment sequence, in terms negativity that is. As I mentioned above, Amendment 221 is a big list of “NID-free” premises comprising of 4 Parts which cover; premises providing childcare, schools and public transport.
Above is a particular highlight. This section of Amendment 221 essentially overrides the current status quo regarding bars and restaurants. Now, the landlord of the establishment serving food can make their own policies regarding vaping. A well-known example is a site wide ban in Wetherspoons locations across the UK which occurred in early June 2013. This section, if included and approved by the entire Welsh Assembly, will put a blanket ban on vaping in pubs. This will also include beer gardens, despite being outside, when food is served. This is one of the most extreme examples of Wales becoming a nanny-state and Mark Drakeford being the Babysitter-in-Chief!
Babysitting, a particularly smooth segue into another ridiculous section of what Mark Drakeford wants to see in regards to vaping around children. See the excerpt below.
If you are a person, who has a child at home and vapes, you as a parent are perfectly permitted to vape around your child. However, if you invite a babysitter whom you pay into your own home, your home becomes vaping or “NID-free” as soon as said babysitter enters your home. Talk about invasion of personal property! Conversely, if a babysitter is a duel user, as in vapes and smokes, the babysitter will not be permitted to vape under the ideology of Mark Drakeford. If said babysitter, needs a nicotine fix, the only option available is to go outside and smoke. This means there could be a moment when the child is unsupervised. This is a severe lack of application of logic and tobacco harm reduction.
With all this doom and gloom, there is a pseudo silver lining. This teeny glimpse of hope comes in Amendment 155. This amendment suggests that a landlord, shop owner and possible owner of a workplace can designate any room or area in the premises where vaping is permitted, as in “not being NID-free” BUT there is a requirement to specify the conditions met before it can be described as exempt, records to be kept and detail when the exemption no longer applies. This can be the most important positive part of the schedule for vape shops. If a Welsh vape shop can use this clause and apply it to the ENTIRE SHOP, the you can completely carry on your taste testing and device demonstrations as you currently do. This is something vaping advocates asked for from the start as a compromise to reduce the impact on the vaping industry. Yes, its not an out right, black and white, in text but it is something to bear in mind. Not only can this apply to vape shops but also pubs. Well, regarding pubs, it could revert the pubs etc. to a picture from the past of separate areas in the venue. However, some pub landlords and customers do miss the “good old days” of a packed venue with smokers and non-smokers or in this case vapers in the venue.
Well, well, there as some saving graces amongst tightening of the screws of liberties to create policies and freedom to vape. The ground must be tread carefully indeed. The best amendments were initially made by Kirsty Williams and Darren Millar on December 9th 2015. On the other hand, Darren Millar has again put in an amendment of his own on January 20th 2016 which essentially is jargon heavy but relies on proposing a resolution to unravel all inclusions of “Nicotine Inhaling Devices” in Amendment 226.
So from an overall advocacy point of view, there is much to think about when it comes to shaping the Public Health (Wales) Bill at the end of Stage 2 of the HSCC process. You have clearly seen for yourselves that there is nannying, ideology and tripe from the Health Minister but teasers that he may actually have a heart [of sorts] that wants vapers to keep vaping.
Never take what is in this blog at face value. The HSCC will be discussing all the amendments and voting on them on January 28th and February 3rd 2016. The amendments regarding NIDs is highly likely to occur in the first session as NIDs appear in the start of the Bill. The method of voting is too complicated to write about but an email received from the HSCC Clerk can summarize it. One interesting point is what happens in the event of a tied vote. IN A TIED VOTE, THE CHAIR MUST VOTE AGAINST THE AMENDMENT!!
This can severely scupper the efforts of vapers and pro-vaping politicians such as Kirsty and Darren. If the HSCC have a tied vote on their amendment to remove NIDs from the Bill, such as Labour Against 50% v Others In Favour 50%, then the amendment will not be agreed and wont have any affect on the Bill in anyway. This is a very scary thought! After this, it’s put before the whole Welsh Assembly to vote on AGAIN! The earliest day for the Plenary vote is Tuesday 1st March 2016. The confirmed date will be published HERE.
So if you find particular amendments insulting, over the top or actually quite positive from the Health Minister [not that you would] or from other HSCC members, please contact your local AM’s, ALL 5 OF THEM, with your views and which way they should vote on the PH Bill. You can do this via Write to Vape-Wales which we have created.
We will endeavour to keep on the pulse with all goings-on in Wales. If you want a picture of what a blanket ban on vaping in enclosed public spaces can be like, check out our most recent guest blog from Minnesota by Alex Carlson.
Welsh Campaign Manager
Vapers in Power