Controversial plans to ‘ban’ the use of e-cigarettes in public places and extend the smoking ban were defeated tonight by just one vote.
Last year the Welsh Government unveiled their ‘Public Health Bill’, which included plans to ban tongue piercings for under 16s and restricting the smoking of conventional tobacco products in public playgrounds, school grounds and hospital grounds.
One of the more controversial proposals included in the legislation was to ban the use of e-cigarettes/vaping in public spaces where children are likely to be present – including including schools, places that serve food, entertainment venues and shopping centres.
Further proposals contained in the legislation included:
– Creating a compulsory, national licensing system for acupuncture, body piercing, electrolysis and tattooing
– Prohibit the intimate piercing, including tongue piercing of children under 16 in Wales
– Require local authorities to prepare and publish a local toilets strategy, which includes an assessment of the need for toilets for public use and details of how that need will be met
– Restrict the use of nicotine inhaling devices in certain public places where children are likely to be present
– Make changes to the way pharmaceutical services are planned by health boards, moving from a system which is focused solely on dispensing prescriptions, to one which responds to the needs of local communities
– Introduce health impact assessments for certain decisions and policies. These will evaluate the likely effect of proposed actions on people’s short and long-term physical and mental health.
However following a feisty debate in the assembly this evening, a motion to pass the Public Health Bill was narrowly lost by one vote – with the Presiding Officer casting the final vote against the proposals.
Health and Social Services Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I am deeply disappointed that the Public Health (Wales) Bill will not pass onto the statute book today. It puts to waste five years of careful preparation and constructive work with a very wide range of stakeholders and supporters.
“There will be widespread anger that opposition parties, who had exerted a real influence on the Bill, failed to support it into law and abandoned all the important protections for the public it would have put in place, preventing a range of public health harms. They chose not to do so and they must answer for their conduct.
“It would have introduced important new measures to improve the provision of pharmacy services across Wales and the provision of public toilets for the young and old; it would have introduced a ban on intimate piercing for children under 16 and new outdoor smoke-free places in hospital grounds, children’s playgrounds and schools.
“Today was also an opportunity to protect a generation who have grown up in a smoke free environment from re-normalising smoking.”
Today’s debate was the last to take place before the Assembly dissolves ahead of May’s elections.