Wales: no vaping, vicar!

Posted on November 26, 2015

In June, the Welsh government put forward proposals to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public places to mirror the current ban on tobacco smoking. Rightly, many vapers, campaigners and opposition politicians were livid at the idea. Even the flimsy excuse for smoking bans - to protect non-smokers from 'secondhand' smoke - doesn't apply to using e-cigarettes. Since there is no evidence of any harm to e-cigarette users, how can 'secondhand' vapour harm anyone?

But the sheer swivel-eyed lunacy of health minister Mark Drakeford's plan has been coming to light in recent weeks. He has set out three scenarios for the potential attention of the courts:

1) A member of the clergy working from home, working ‘indefinable’ hours given the nature of the work, would not be able to vape in the room they are working.

2) If you work from home between 9-5pm and take a work call in your lounge at 8pm or check emails every 15 minutes your lounge could be classed as a workplace – so the ban would apply.

3) If your workplace is a studio flat you won’t be able to ‘vape’ at all in your home during working hours.

Of course, such bans would be unenforceable. But that's no barrier to the megalomania of public health fanatics like Drakeford. 

There are valuable lessons here for everyone interested in choice. First, the assumption that a proposal is too mad to go forward has been disproved time and again. That was widely assumed with workplace smoking bans but that didn't stop their implementation. It was also assumed with bans on smoking in cars, display bans in shops and plain packs. They are now all in force or about to come into effect. We need to oppose this nonsense every step of the way.

Second, where smoking regulations go, vaping regulation seems to be following, despite the protestations of some anti-tobacco figures who believe e-cigarettes are a safe alternative. Already, we have bans on vaping on public transport and other public places. More and more pubs have decided to ban vaping 'just in case', despite any legal requirement to do so. Elsewhere in the world, authorities aren't even waiting. The Canadian city of Saskatoon, for example, has just banned outdoor smoking and vaping.

None of these bans is warranted. They will have no impact whatsoever on health. They represent a control-freak minority who want to restrict all our 'bad' habits - even the ones that aren't bad at all. Unless these monomaniacs face stiff opposition, our freedoms are going to be severely curtailed.