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Assembly Members set to vote on health bill

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The Public Health Bill which will extend smoke free areas and introduce a licensing scheme for tattooing is expected to be passed into law by the National Assembly today.

The bill includes new legislation to ban smoking on hospital grounds, school grounds and in public playgrounds. It also prohibits tobacco and nicotine products from being handed over to under 18s by home delivery or collection services.

The Public Health (Wales) Bill is the latest in a long line of measures the Welsh Government has introduced to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales. If passed, it will create the conditions which enable people to live healthy lives and will protect them from preventable harm.

It has a particular focus on promoting children and young people's health. Proposals such as the ban on smoking in school grounds, childcare settings, and playgrounds are intended to prevent children from being exposed to smoking behaviours, making it less likely that they'll take up smoking themselves. Today is an opportunity for us to pass a radical Welsh law that will meet the needs of people in Wales. I look forward to the vote later today.

– Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health

The bill also includes:

  • Creating a mandatory licensing scheme for 'special procedures'; including acupuncture, body piercing, tattooing, and prohibiting the intimate of piercing of anybody under the age of 18.
  • Placing a duty on local authorities to prepare and publish a local toilets strategy, including an assessment of the need for toilets for public use and details of how that need will be met.
  • Requiring public bodies in Wales to assess how their decisions will affect people's physical and mental health.
  • Making the planning of pharmacy services more responsive to the needs of their local community.
  • Placing a duty on the Welsh Government to produce a national strategy on preventing and reducing obesity.

Smokers group Forest has criticised aspects of the bill, insisting that smoking restrictions will not improve public health.

The anti-smoking policies in the Health Bill will do nothing to improve public health in Wales. They are petty, mean-spirited measures designed to denormalise both the product and the consumer but there's no evidence they will have any impact on youth smoking rates or young people's health.

Smoking in the open air doesn't present a risk to anyone apart from the smoker, but if the Welsh Government wants to reduce children's exposure to smoking they should amend the smoking ban to allow adults to smoke in places where children are largely absent, like pubs and private members' clubs.

The Government can't have it both ways. Tobacco is a legal product that generates billions of pounds in revenue every year. As long as it remains legal adults must be allowed to smoke without this constant harassment and discrimination.

– Simon Clark, Forest director