The Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales (RPS Wales) has welcomed news that the number of smokers in Wales has continued to decrease.
Figures published in the annual Welsh Health Survey for 2015 show that just under a fifth (19 per cent) of adults reported that they currently smoke, a 1% drop from last year’s survey. This continues an encouraging trend which has seen the number of smokers fall from 26% when the survey was first conducted in 2003/04.
This year’s survey was the first to report on the use of e–cigarettes and found that one in 20 people (6 per cent) currently use an e-cigarette. We remain concerned about the use of e-cigarettes in terms of their long term safety and normalising smoking behaviour in society. While e-cigarettes could have a potential role in harm reduction and in supporting people to give up smoking we believe more high-quality evidence on their safety and efficacy is needed. The RPS advocates that e-cigarettes should be treated in exactly the same way as any other form of smoking, including restrictions on age, their use in public spaces, advertising and promotional displays.
We were pleased that the Welsh Government recognised our concerns during consultation of the Public Health Bill in the last Welsh Assembly term and subsequently introduced plans to bring the use of e-cigarettes into line with existing provisions on smoking. It was disappointing therefore to see the Public Health Bill fail to be supported in the last Assembly and more recently to hear the First Minister announce that the Welsh Government will not include proposals to restrict e-cigarettes when the Public Health Bill is reintroduced before the Assembly.
Reflecting on this news, RPS Wales Director, Mair Davies stated that:
“We are disappointed that the Welsh Government will not commit to regulating the use of e-cigarettes in Wales. We are particularly concerned that years of public health policy may be significantly undermined if the use of e-cigarettes is not given further consideration. We encourage the Welsh Government to re-ignite the debate on this important issue. With uncertainty over the long term effects of e-cigarettes and their potential to normalise smoking behaviour in Wales, it is vital that the Welsh Government and opposition parties consult with key stakeholders to ensure that these devices are properly regulated and to build upon the gains already made in reducing smoking rates in Wales”.