ASH Wales has welcomed the Welsh Government’s ambitious plans to reduce adult smoking rates to 16% by 2020 as one of a range of measures announced by the Health Minister during a debate at the Senedd yesterday.

The Tobacco Control Action Plan, Wales’s first comprehensive strategy for tackling the harm caused by tobacco to Welsh communities, outlines plans to reduce smoking rates, improve stop smoking services, and reduce children’s exposure to secondhand smoke through promoting smokefree homes and cars.

ASH Wales Chief Executive Elen de Lacy said that although significant progress had been made over the years through a range of tobacco control legislation more was needed to be done to reduce the quarter of Welsh adults who still smoke on a regular basis. Emphasising that tackling tobacco will have longer term benefits for both the health and economy of Wales Miss de Lacy commented:

“We congratulate the Welsh Government on reinforcing their commitment to introduce a ban on point of sale displays and supporting the plain packaging of tobacco products. And we welcome the fact that they will give serious consideration to setting up a tobacco retail register in Wales. They are sending a clear message to the tobacco industry that Wales is serious about tackling its number one public health issue.

Achieving all of the measures outlined in the Action Plan will be a big challenge for Wales especially in making inroads into smoking rates amongst some of the hardest to reach groups such as pregnant women and young people. Smoking in some of Wales’s most deprived areas also remains stubbornly high and contributes to the health inequalities gap. Progress will need to be clearly monitored by the Implementation Board to ensure we keep on track to achieve the ambitious target of 16%.”

The Action Plan is a major step forward for public health in Wales and puts Wales on a par with other UK countries which already have comprehensive strategies in place for tackling tobacco.