Health Minister Mark Drakeford has published a White Paper setting out a number of radical legislative proposals including:
- introducing a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit to reduce the harms associated with alcohol overuse and misuse;
- restricting the use of e-cigarettes in public places to address concerns these products normalise smoking and undermine the enforcement of the smoking ban;
- introducing a tobacco retailers’ register requiring businesses to inform enforcement authorities if they sell tobacco, with stiffer penalties for those which sell to under 18s.
Speaking on the seventh anniversary of the introduction of the smoking ban in Wales, Professor Drakeford said:
“Taking concerted, collective action to address public health concerns remains one of the most powerful contributions any government can make to the welfare and wellbeing of its population.
“Alcohol and tobacco contribute to many life-threatening illnesses and are major causes of persistent inequalities in health.
“There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. It’s no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has increased substantially, so has alcohol-related death and disease. A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses.
“I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes on the enforcement of Wales’ smoking ban. That’s why we are proposing restricting their use in enclosed public places.
“I am also concerned that their use in enclosed public places could normalise smoking behaviour.
“E-cigarettes contain nicotine, which is highly addictive, and I want to minimise the risk of a new generation becoming addicted to this drug.
“The proposals in the White Paper are based on good prudent healthcare principles – taking proportionate and preventative action to improve public health and reduce the likelihood of individuals becoming dependent on costly treatment later in life, when it might also be too late to make a lasting difference to their health.
“They also carry on the tradition of Welsh radicalism, especially in public health, to help improve the lives of all.”
Other proposals in the White Paper, which will be subject to consultation, include;
- whether to make it an offence to deliver a tobacco product ordered online to someone under 18, even if the item was ordered by an adult. This would operate alongside the new proxy purchase offence in the UK Children and Families Act to protect under 18s from accessing tobacco;
- introducing a national register requiring businesses and practitioners providing cosmetic piercing, tattooing and other special procedures to improve regulation and set specific standards such as cleanliness and hygiene;
- requiring local authorities to develop a strategy to ensure toilets are publically available in local communities.
Dr Ruth Hussey, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, added:
“Wales was the first country in the UK to vote in favour of a ban on smoking in public places, which came into effect on April 2, 2007.
“That legislation, seen at the time as controversial in many quarters, is now considered to be one of the most successful public health initiatives.
“On the seventh anniversary of the smoking ban, it is symbolic that Wales is once again at the forefront of a new set of radical proposals to improve public health.”
The White Paper consultation seeks the views of as wide a range of people as possible about these proposals. The consultation will close on Tuesday June 24.