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

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 3:58 pm on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Jayne Bryant Jayne Bryant Labour 3:58, 15 May 2024

Diolch, Deputy Llywydd. I'd like to thank Mabon ap Gwynfor, John Griffiths and Altaf Hussain for tabling this Member debate today, and for the points made about tobacco and nicotine. Members will recall the statement that the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care made just over two weeks ago, in which she set out the measures in the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill that will apply to Wales.

Before I turn to the Bill, I want to reiterate some of the startling facts about smoking. Mabon raised that in his opening statement, and I think it's always important to remember those stark facts. They should always stick with us. Smoking remains the leading cause of avoidable harm and death in Wales. Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body and, uniquely, it harms not just the smoker, but the people around them. It has a devastating effect on our health, whatever our age, and I'm pleased that Altaf was able to mention shisha in his contribution.

The Bill continues to make its way through the UK Parliament, and the Chief Medical Officer for Wales gave evidence during the Committee Stage about the importance of the proposals for Wales. It provides a unique opportunity to take decisive action to free a generation from nicotine and tobacco addiction. The Bill also includes provisions to strengthen the enforcement system by introducing on-the-spot fines for under-age sales of tobacco and vaping products in England and Wales, which will enable trading standards officers to take swifter action when needed.

I'm clear that the measures in the Bill are not the only actions we need to take in our continued battle to protect public health. As discussed today, there are provisions in the Public Health (Wales) Act 2017 that have come into force. These were hard won and provide us with important tools to use. But it's important to recognise that we have made progress in bringing other provisions in this wide-ranging Act into force, such as protecting young people from inappropriate cosmetic piercings, pharmaceutical needs assessments and the provision of local toilet strategies. As part of our efforts to denormalise smoking, we made school grounds, playgrounds and hospital grounds smoke free in 2021, and we're currently developing regulations to reduce health inequality in Wales by embedding the use of health impact assessments.

There are other areas of the Act where powers are available to strengthen our approach to tobacco and vapes, particularly the introduction of a retail register, that have yet to come into force. As we know, this industry moves rapidly. We have kept this policy under review and we regularly discuss with stakeholders what they require. We have provided funding to Trading Standards Wales to undertake enforcement action on illegal vapes, trained officers and raised awareness about the impact illegal products have on our communities. But the introduction of the UK Tobacco and Vapes Bill changes the landscape that we are working in.

We'll also need to consider—[Interruption.] Yes.