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

Part of the debate – in the Senedd at 4:08 pm on 15 May 2024.

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Photo of Mabon ap Gwynfor Mabon ap Gwynfor Plaid Cymru 4:08, 15 May 2024

Thanks, Gareth. I'm afraid it seems to be a confused argument, but nevertheless, I am concerned that you've misunderstood the proposal in any case, the motion. The motion isn't to do with impacting on people's right to smoke. It's to do with bringing in a retail register so that we can control who sells tobacco and nicotine products. People will still be able to buy those products. So, hopefully that will convince you that the motion is the right way to go, because it doesn't impact on your libertarian concerns.

As I said, smoking kills 5,600 people in Wales every year. John Griffiths and Altaf Hussain made a point of explaining how smoking still impacts on people's lives, and they made that very strongly. We also know that it costs in excess of £300 million to the NHS every year. And smoking accounts for 5 per cent of all hospital admissions. That's the impact of smoking, and that's what this motion aims to try to decrease and help. 

Also, thanks to John Griffiths, who referred to the work of the cross-party group. The cross-party group has been doing some excellent work, and I thank the cross-party group. You mentioned in your contribution, John, as did Heledd, schools, and the impact on schools, and the fact that a lot of young children are now starting to vape—vape especially, which leads them on to smoking cigarettes. Coincidentally, I had two schools from my constituency here yesterday, Treferthyr and Llanystumdwy. I spoke with them about the proposed motion, and they were 100 per cent in agreement on needing a retail register. They said that they knew children and their siblings who were vaping, and they saw the benefit that this motion might bring. 

The Minister was right in thanking Altaf for referencing shisha. I've seen people smoke shisha and think that because it goes through water, it makes it better somehow, without realising the impact on their health. And as you say, the impact of one shisha session is the equivalent of dozens of cigarettes. This proposal would help license those cafes and bars as well, so thank you, Altaf, for your support. 

Minister, thank you for the response. Overall, I think there's general support for the principle. The Cabinet Secretary did mention about three weeks ago that, as a principle, she very much would be willing to look at whether this is something they could look at as a Government. That seems to have been diluted since then, because in your response, Minister, you did say that things have changed now—the landscape, I think you said, has changed because of the proposed new Bill.

I know you mentioned that the Bill would allow for on-the-spot fines, which is good, but having a retail register would be even better. You wouldn't necessarily need those on-the-spot fines. You wouldn't need to chase people down the street. You wouldn't need to look after people. You'd know where the products were being sold. You'd know which people were licensed to sell these products. 

And isn't it ironic that we have a system in place that licenses the sale of alcohol, amongst other things, but not tobacco and nicotine, which are just as dangerous if not more so in some cases? I'm also concerned that you said that you've funded Trading Standards Wales for enforcement. Again, you wouldn't need to fund those elements if you had a retail register, because trading standards could monitor exactly who sells tobacco and nicotine products.  

You also then went on to say that you're pausing implementation because of the new Bill. I'm afraid I don't buy that, because we've had the ability to introduce a retail register since 2017, long before Westminster's proposed vape Bill. So, there's still a strong argument here to get the Government to introduce a retail register. I think the argument has been well put by everybody here this evening, so I'd urge every Member to support the motion tonight. Diolch yn fawr iawn, Dirprwy Lywydd