New laws to protect children and young people from the harms of tobacco have been hailed as a major public health achievement by tobacco control campaign group ASH Wales.
The Public Health (Wales) Bill successfully passed in the Senedd today (Tuesday 16th May) following a final vote by Assembly Members.
The new laws will restrict smoking in children’s playgrounds, school grounds and hospital sites and pave the way for a retail register of all tobacco sellers. The legislation follows a campaign by ASH Wales which persuaded every local authority in Wales to implement voluntary smoking bans in their children’s playgrounds and has seen 11 councils ban smoking at the gates of their primary schools.
Research shows young people are highly influenced by others smoking around them - those with a parent who smokes are 70% more likely to take up the habit. Smokefree areas also protect from second-hand smoke whilst ‘denormalising’ the deadly habit. Almost half of long-term smokers begin smoking before leaving high school and among children who try smoking around a third become regular smokers within 3 years.
Support for banning smoking at communal outdoor spaces such as these - especially those specifically created for children - remains high. A recent YouGov poll (2017) showed:
- 71% agree smoking should be banned in hospital grounds
- 61% agree with banning smoking in recreational spaces such as parks and beaches
- An overwhelming 83% think smoking should be banned at children’s playgrounds, including 56% of smokers
One of the most powerful control measures outlined in the Bill is the creation of a national register of retailers of tobacco products. This will make it easier for retailers to be identified and monitored - helping to tackle the problem of illegal sales of tobacco to underage young people in Wales.
Suzanne Cass, Chief Executive ASH Wales Cymru, said: “This is a major public health achievement and it is absolutely fantastic news that Wales’ next generation have the chance to grow-up in a society where they can get an education, play and meet their friends in smokefree, clean environments.
“Smoking is an addiction of childhood with a classroom full of children taking up smoking every day in Wales. It is essential tobacco control measures tackle the issue of young people smoking or seeing this adult choice as a normal, everyday activity. It is essential we set positive examples wherever we can.
“The retail register will give enforcement agencies a clear idea of where tobacco is being sold and the increased restrictions will help drive down the sale of illegal tobacco. Illegal tobacco is sold at pocket money prices by sellers who don’t care about age restrictions therefore making tobacco more accessible to young people.”
The Bill has seen various health organisations such as Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation and ASH Wales work tirelessly over the past few years to provide strong evidence to support the tobacco control aspects which will become law following Royal Assent.