This is an open letter sent to all members of the Welsh Assembly Health and Social Care Committee. This letter was sent electronically on Tuesday 26th January 2016.
Dear HSCC Members
I am writing as the Welsh Campaign Manager for Vapers in Power, a registered political party established to provide a voice for e-cigarette users. I call upon you to do the right thing for the health of Welsh citizens by supporting any amendments to the Public Health (Wales) Bill which require that e-cigarettes are entirely removed from the Bill.
Now that the Minister’s amendments have been tabled it is apparent that the list of places where e-cigs are banned would not form part of the main bill but would be subject to separate regulation. It is my understanding that this will make it much easier to change in the future. I am very concerned that whilst this removes the major barrier to getting the bill passed it will allow the democratic process to be circumvented and enable tighter restrictions to be arbitrarily applied at a later date.
You will be aware of Kirsty Williams’ amendments (supported by Darren Millar) to effectively remove electronic cigarettes from the Bill altogether. I strongly urge you to support these amendments because:
- These proposals have been fraught with controversy from the outset and have had little public support; as evidenced by two recent newspaper polls Wales Online (79% oppose) and the Daily Post (79% oppose).
- There are now an estimated 242,000 vapers in Wales whose lives could be adversely affected by this bill. For a proportion of them (and their family and friends) this will be a key issue in the May elections.
- The Minister’s proposals would have dire economic consequences. Wales entered the e-cig market at its inception. The industry has provided employment in manufacturing and marketing: Jobs that should not be jeopardised by intervention based on a “gateway” theory that has no credible evidence to support it and much evidence suggesting it doesn’t exist. Jobs in the e-cig industry are well-founded on a sustainable and expanding (at the moment) base and not dependant upon the vagaries of foreign or incoming firms. They have also cost nothing in subsidies from the Welsh Assembly. Many S.M.E.s will be forced to close if smokers return to tobacco use, which would be the logical outcome of the proposed bans.
- It is my opinion that the effects of including electronic cigarettes in the Bill will be negative on a personal level too. In Wales this has been estimated at “an annual QALY loss of 2,425 years”.
E-cig vapour has been shown time and again to have no demonstrable effect on others and minimal (if any) harmful effect on the user. Banning the use of these devices in indoor (and potentially some outside) spaces would damage public health. The potential unintended consequences include:
- Sending out the erroneous message that using electronic cigarettes is as harmful as smoking and thus deterring cigarettes smokers from switching.
- Putting those that have stopped smoking at risk by forcing them to occupy the same spaces as smokers. It is an appalling law that proposes to send someone addicted to a combination of chemicals which they are trying to quit out to stand with the users of the thing they are trying to quit from.
- Deterring cigarette smokers from taking up vaping (many people start vaping because it’s permitted in more areas than smoking).
Could this bill jeopardise the most popular method of quitting smoking?
This graph is taken from the Smoking in England ‘latest trends’ published
on 11th January 2016 and clearly shows the popularity of electronic
cigarettes against other quit methods.
I note that discussions with stakeholders have excluded the key group from the process: vapers. I urge every AM prior to voting at the next plenary stage to meet with some of their vaping constituents. I also (in the interests of good governance and transparency) call for a meeting to be organised by HSCC at the Senedd with vapers to redress this anomaly. Vapers in Power would be happy to facilitate this.
Wales took a great deal of pride in being the first of the Home Nations to ban smoking in public places and received the plaudits for doing so. Surely you do not wish for Wales to be seen as taking retrograde steps in harm reduction by not supporting the safer alternative to smoking?
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further, you can contact me by using the following email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message on my phone [phone number omitted for privacy reasons]
Welsh Campaign Manager
Vapers In Power
 http://100thousand.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/E-Opinion-Poll-Results.pdf (page 11, Table 4)