Any exemptions to the smoking ban in Wales will destroy Wales’ credibility on public health and destabilise smoking legislation across the UK.
On October 16th 2012, AMs will be asked to water down Wales’ flagship public health legislation to exempt film and TV, following commercial pressure from the creative industries.
In England an exemption for filming was built in to its original legislation. But smoking is not allowed on production sets or film studios in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as part legislation to protect all workers from the harmful effects of second hand smoke.
ASH Wales has warned the Welsh Government that if it joins England in creating an exemption it risks creating a domino effect in Scotland and Northern Ireland and will open the floodgates to further challenges to Wales’s smoking legislation if more industries put forward an ‘economic’ argument.
Chief Executive of ASH Wales, Elen de Lacy, said:
“The smoke-free premises legislation is one of the most successful public health measures introduced in Wales and has been widely supported by the public with 80% of Welsh adults in favour.
“Wales can be proud that we were the first UK nation to call for a ban on smoking in enclosed public places but this move will tell the world that our values are up for sale when the going gets tough.
"Smoking kills nearly 6,000 people a year in Wales and the law was passed to protect the health of all workers in Wales. Film crew and production staff should not be exempt from this protection and exposed to second hand smoke because of industry pressure.
"This exemption completely undermines the Welsh Government’s commitment to reducing smoking prevalence rates to 16% by 2020 and also sends out completely the wrong signal to children and young people who as we know are heavily influenced by what they see on film and television.”
"Any amendment to the legislation is a backward step for Wales and an exemption not only risks creating a domino effect across the UK with Scotland and Northern Ireland likely to follow but will give the green light for other industries to challenge the legislation in the future if there is commercial pressure.”
The exemption was opposed by 75% of those who responded to the Welsh Government consultation on the issue in early 2012.
It is also opposed by the Wales Tobacco Control Alliance – a network of more than 30 organisations across Wales as well as other influential bodies across the UK.
Delyth Lloyd, Public Affairs Manager at the British Heart Foundation (Cymru) said:
“At a time when the Welsh Government is looking at ways to lead the rest of the UK on reducing the health harms caused by passive smoke, for example through further attention to smoking in cars and homes, weakening the smoke-free regulations in Wales designed to protect all workers from exposure to passive smoke would be a backward step.”
Tina Donnelly, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales, said:
“This exemption sends out the wrong message in Wales. The Welsh Government has made an ambitious commitment to improving public health in Wales. Tobacco use is a major Welsh public health concern. Every day nurses see the detrimental effects of smoking and tobacco use on their patients. The alarming evidence indicates that we have a moral duty to use every legislative option to protect people’s health from the dangers of smoking.”
Sheila Duffy, Chief Executive of ASH Scotland said:
“The ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces has been an outstanding and popular success in both Scotland and Wales. Because tobacco smoke is a hazardous substance we should not allow exemptions to public health protection because of special pleading from any industry. The Welsh Government should look to protect its own good record in public health, as well as the people who work in the TV and film industries."
Ruth Jones, a paediatric physiotherapist and Vice-Chair of the Welsh Board for the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in Wales said:
“Children and young people are very easily influenced by what they see on the television. It is essential that smoking be kept off the television and out of films. Wales and the Welsh Government must lead by example.”
Around 14,000 young people aged 11-15 take up smoking each year in Wales (Welsh Government 2011)
Some of the responses to the Welsh Government consultation against any amendment to the smoking legislation:
“Our concern is…that this amendment will signal a green light for much more widespread use of smoking in productions. We therefore counsel against the amendments.”
Royal College of Physicians
“We see no justification for bringing forward these amendments….It undermines the whole direction of public health promotion and tobacco control in Wales. Fundamentally, this amendment represents a dilution of the Smoke-Free Premises regulations in Wales, a policy which has received a huge amount of public support.”
“As a manager who is responsible for staff that enforces the smoke free regulations, the amendment to the legislation would be impossible to enforce, due to the fact that ‘artistic integrity of the performance’ is incapable of definition….Unless there are extra resources to enforce the regulations, it would be left up to the industry to be self policing.”
Health Promotion and Trading Standards, City and Council of Swansea
“The health risks are not limited to second hand smoke if actors who are required to smoke become addicted to smoking.”
Public Health Wales
“Enabling smoking to be shown could have a negative impact for young people and pregnant women as a result of normalising smoking through the media.”
Welsh Nursing and Midwifery Committee
“The restriction on smoking in performances was introduced on solid health grounds and there is no health evidence to support any amendment to or dilution of the restriction.”
Chartered Institute for Environmental Health, Wales
“[There are]…alternatives to amending the regulations that use CGI and special props. When these are available and the risks to health of changing the regulations are clear, we urge the Welsh Government not to amend the existing regulations.”
Cancer Research UK
“The proposed amendments compromise human health and provide inequitable protection of specific professions – performers and supporting staff.”