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The e-cigarette ban debate

Is Wales right to push for a ban on e-cigarettes in public places? Three readers give their views

FOR


 

“We should be wary of e-cigarettes”

Ravinder Singh Cholia

Owner, Medipharmacy Ltd t/a Pharma Healthcare, Canvey Island, Essex

     

Banning e-cigarettes in public places may be the best option until we have a greater understanding of the devices, says Ravinder Singh Cholia. Although it is “better to have an e-cigarette rather than tobacco”, he stresses that the MHRA has not licensed them as medicines. And we still don’t have the full safety data. For this reason, he believes the Welsh government is right to limit public exposure to potential contaminants.

Using e-cigarettes in public places could also have societal consequences, he points out. Young children will see people smoking the devices and may assume using them – and even traditional cigarettes – is the norm. “By normalising that action in public, albeit an e-cigarette, you’re actually promoting cigarette smoking,” he argues.

Mr Singh Cholia concedes that he “may change his mind” when the MHRA licenses e-cigarettes as medicinal products. But, until then, they should be treated with caution. “Yes, it’s better to be smoking an e-cigarette than pumping toxins into your body, but until we find out [their effects], I won’t promote them,” he says.

AGAINST


 

“The government is reacting on the hoof”

Terry Maguire

Owner, Maguire Pharmacies, Belfast

     

The Welsh government is “demonising and vilifying” e-cigarettes without sufficient evidence, says Terry Maguire. He understands that the ban, proposed last month, would be precautionary. He also understands that the full effects of e-cigarettes are still unknown, but he is concerned the government has reacted “on the hoof”. “I think they need to form public policy in a considered way and to do it in a measured way. I don’t think they’re doing that,” he says. “There are too many arrogant public health officials who are calling the shots here.”

In fact, Mr Maguire believes the ban may worsen public health. Ideally, there would be no need for e-cigarettes. But he acknowledges that many people find it very difficult to quit smoking – and if they continue to do so, they could suffer from cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease or lung cancer. 

E-cigarettes could help these people quit, so Mr Maguire worries a ban could be counterproductive. “It’ll stop people moving to e-cigarettes because they’ll perceive the government to be saying [e-cigarettes] are unhealthy,” he explains. 


 

FOR


 

“It will curb social acceptability”

Sid Dajani

Wainwrights Chemists, Bishopstoke, Hampshire

     

Smoking e-cigarettes in public sends out a message of acceptance, says Sid Dajani, and this is not a message he is comfortable with. He worries that many people see e-cigarettes as “safe smoking” when there is no evidence to support that assumption. 

Banning e-cigarettes in public is a “great move”, he believes, because it could put a stop to this mindset. “I’m happy they’re going to be banning it in open places because it encourages other people to take it up,” he says. 

A ban could also curb the more far-reaching effects of openly smoking the devices – in particular, making smoking more acceptable. Mr Dajani is keen to avoid taking this step backwards in public health terms. “The last thing you want to do is create an environment of social acceptability again,” he says. “We don’t want to encourage social behaviour of smoking like we used to have in the 1970s and 1980s.”

Although Mr Dajani admits the ban in public places won’t “solve all the problems” around smoking, he believes it is the right thing to do “for social and health reasons”.

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