A public health bill to be launched on Tuesday will ban the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public or work spaces.
The Welsh Government said it wants to bring the devices in line with existing smoking laws despite claims there is limited evidence of them harming others. A ban on 'vaping' in public places could be in force as soon as next year while tattooists also face greater regulations.
Using e-cigarettes in enclosed public places could be banned in Wales under radical plans.
The proposals form part of a new Public Health Bill which also aims to make it illegal to hand over tobacco to under-18s.
The bill, which will need to pass the Assembly with opposition support as the Welsh Government is in a minority, could get Royal Assent by next April.
It is thought the e-cigarette ban could be implemented by late 2016.
Health minister Professor Mark Drakeford said: “This is not an area in which you should wait for proof that harm has conclusively happened. We need to take action now to prevent the possibility of harm.” It is hoped that the ban on e-cigarettes, which emit vapour containing nicotine and flavourings, would maintain indoor air quality and help in the enforcement of the current indoor smoking ban.
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There is not yet a huge body of evidence on the harm or otherwise of e-cigarettes but the Welsh Government is taking the position that it may be harmful and doesn’t want to take any risk of anything increasing smoking among young people.
Similar legislation is in force in Malta, Belgium and Spain but Wales would be the first British nation to legislate for a ban.
'Lack of Evidence'
Anti-smoking group ASH Wales, in a response to a consultation paper on the issue, said: “We should be wary of taking steps that could undermine those who are using them as a means of protecting themselves from the harms attributable to tobacco.”
The British Heart Foundation told the same exercise: “The law to prohibit smoking in enclosed public spaces was implemented to reduce the public health impact of second hand smoking and was founded on a strong evidence base.
"There is little evidence that electronic cigarette vapour causes harm to non-users exposed to it, so the equivalent argument cannot be made”.
Tenovus Cancer Care last year warned that it wasn’t possible to answer whether the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed public places acts as a gateway to the use of conventional tobacco products and that current available evidence doesn’t suggest e-cigarettes were being experimented with by children and non-smokers.
On the side of the argument for a ban, the British Medical Association said “the habitual nature of nicotine may generate the potential of an addictive personality and ultimately promote an individual to smoke cigarettes”.