ANTI-TOBACCO campaigners have welcomed the tabling of the Scottish Government’s e-cigarettes bill, which they said was a “careful balancing act” between restricting young people’s access to electronic cigarettes while maintaining access for smokers seeking help to quit tobacco use.
Ash Scotland said it believed e-cigarettes were less damaging to health than traditional cigarettes, but warned that they were not without risk.
The bill, which was tabled with the Scottish Parliament yesterday, is to ban sales of e-cigarettes to under-18s. It would also make it an offence for an adult to buy e-cigarettes for a minor and will contain powers to restrict certain forms of domestic advertising for e-cigarettes, such as billboards and free distribution.
Concerns have been raised previously over the safety of the electronic devices, and whether the futuristic design and range of flavours would encourage young people to start smoking conventional tobacco.
Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “The right regulatory framework for e-cigarettes will require a careful balancing act – seeking to maximise the potential to help people quit tobacco use, while frustrating the commercial interest in recruiting a new generation into nicotine addiction.”
She added: “The urgent priority is to reduce the enormous harm caused by tobacco use.
“We believe e-cigarettes will prove much less harmful than smoking – so for a smoker to switch from tobacco to electronic cigarettes will bring significant health benefits and we welcome the Scottish Government’s attempts not to over-regulate and stifle the e-cigarette market.
“Yet e-cigarettes are not harmless. The best health outcomes will still come from being free of any addictive substance and the measures announced today to protect young people from the commercial interests who would sell them such devices are justified and proportionate.”
The bill also includes measures to make it a statutory offence to smoke within hospital grounds, which could be punishable by fines of up to £1,000.
Maureen Watt, minister for public health, said: “We have long argued that e-cigarettes need to be regulated. They may have a place when it comes to helping smokers quit, but we must in particular ensure that children are not exposed to the risk of nicotine addiction.
“Smoking outside hospital buildings is already prohibited by NHS boards, but through this health bill we will seek to assist boards with compliance by making it a statutory offence.
“Hospitals are places where people go to recover from illness and injury. I believe smoking outside our NHS hospitals is something we should consign to history.”
The new health bill, if approved, also contains measures to improve patient safety and rights by creating a statutory “duty of candour”, which would apply to all health and social care organisations.
The statute would place a duty on organisations to be open when a patient has suffered unintended harm during a period of treatment or care. A separate part of the bill seeks to create new criminal offences of wilful neglect or ill-treatment which would apply to rare cases where there has been intentional neglect or ill-treatment in the health or social care system.