5. Member Debate under Standing Order 11.21(iv): Control of tobacco and nicotine products

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 3:31 pm on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 3:31, 15 May 2024

Diolch yn fawr iawn, Llywydd. Since 2017, more than 20,000 children in Wales have smoked their first cigarette. By now, 15,000 of those children will be well on their way to becoming long-term smokers. And in a future none of them can yet see, 10,000 of these children will eventually die from their deadly addiction. 

As shocking as they are, these numbers represent just a fraction of the young Welsh lives affected by the cruel consequences of smoking. I reference 2017, because, on the 16 May of that year, the Senedd passed legislation that could have, and would have, reduced some of this harm and saved some of these lives. Heralded by the Minister at the time as a landmark day for public health in Wales, almost seven years to the day on and the law to introduce a tobacco and nicotine register has never been implemented. We have wasted time at a huge cost to children’s health. We must now put that right.

Smoking is an addiction of childhood. The majority of people who smoke in Wales had their first cigarette when they were children or teenagers. When surveyed by ASH Cymru, 71 per cent of these smokers say they wish they’d never started in the first place, and, although more than half want to quit, many are trapped by their childhood addiction.

Smoking remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death—5,600 people die from smoking every single year. Cigarettes are the only consumer product, which, when used as directed by the manufacturer, will kill two in three long-term users. If tobacco was brought to the market today, it would never be approved for sale.

As well as cancer, heart disease and lung disease, smoking is also a major contributing factor in still birth, stroke and dementia. Smoking continues to drive devastating discrepancies in health outcomes. The tobacco industry tend to airbrush over the fact that they’ve made people addicted to their uniquely dangerous products, and, sadly, they have had the most success in the areas of Wales that are most disadvantaged.

New data published this week by ASH Cymru shows that, while 9 per cent of homeowners smoke, when we look at those who live in social housing, that figure rises to 30 per cent. But we have a huge opportunity within our grasp to do something about all of this—to close existing loopholes, reduce health harms, save lives and protect our future generations. We can use existing legislation to implement a tobacco and nicotine retail register here in Wales. A register would require all businesses and retailers who sell either tobacco products or nicotine products in Wales who sell either tobacco products or nicotine products in Wales to sign up, and it would be an offence to sell tobacco or nicotine products from premises, including mobile units and pop-up shops, if those businesses were not on the national register.