First on the agenda of the Plenary for Tuesday (Oct 4) was e-cigarettes and the Welsh Government’s approach to promoting them in order to encourage smokers to stop smoking.
The First Minister directed Natasha Asghar to the tobacco control strategy document published in July 2022
Natasha Asghar asked the First Minister if he agreed that it was critical that smokers understand that switching to vape products is likely to significantly reduce their risk of harm compared to smoking conventional cigarettes, and asked what the Welsh Government weredoing to encourage the NHS in Wales to work with vaping companies to supply their products to those who wish to quit smoking to help you meet the target of a smoke-free Wales by 2030.
The First Minister pay tribute to all of those who have been involved in the smoking cessation campaigns in Wales in recent times. He then said: “Where e-cigarettes lead to people ceasing the use of tobacco, then, undoubtedly, e-cigarettes are less harmful than conventional cigarettes. Sadly, the evidence is that, for most people who use an e-cigarette, it is as well as, not instead of, a conventional cigarette. Eighty-five per cent in recent studies are dual use, and dual use, I’m afraid, does not eliminate the harm that smoking conventional cigarettes brings. In fact, it adds additional harms, particularly in relation to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. So, on the terms that the Member put it, I agree with her—if we can persuade people to move from conventional cigarettes to e-cigarettes, they are definitely less harmful. The evidence is that we are not succeeding in doing that, and people who believe that adding an e-cigarette into the repertoire and thinking that that’s helping them, I’m afraid the evidence there is that it quite definitely doesn’t.”
Jenny Rathbone MS reminded the First Minister that he endeavoured to control vaping when he introduced the Bill in 2015 and said that there was no support from the Conservative benches for this measure so it had to be withdrawn. She said: “So, I’m glad to see that the tobacco control strategy recognises that vaping is a gateway into smoking, and we now have a veritable epidemic amongst young people of vaping. I just wondered what plans, if any, the Welsh Government has to really clamp down on this in schools and colleges, because, undoubtedly, the tobacco companies are using it as a way of getting people to take up smoking, which we know is so harmful.”
The First Minister then pointed to the advice offere from experts in the USA saying: “Members here will have seen, no doubt, the advice of the US Surgeon General, providing public health advice to states across America that we must take aggressive steps—aggressive steps—to protect our children from these highly potent products. E-cigarettes contain nicotine; nicotine is highly addictive. Nicotine is particularly damaging to the developing brains of adolescents; indeed, it continues to cause harm to the brain up to the age of 25. So, whatever steps we might take to derive the public health benefits from adults who genuinely use e-cigarettes to quit conventional cigarettes, we must do everything we can to protect children from the way in which using an e-cigarette becomes an addictive tool, which then leads on to even worse consequences.”