Ministers in Wales abolish plans to permit smoking on film sets

smokingProposals that would have seen the smoking ban relaxed in Wales to permit actors to smoke in film or TV sets have been scrapped following a review of the arguments for and against it by ministers.

An alteration to the provisions of the 2007 smoking ban would resulted in performers being excluded from the ban in particular circumstances, but health leaders heavily criticised the potential exemptions, arguing it could be setting a dangerous precedent.

Wales, just like England, has a smoking ban in place that applies to enclosed public places such as bars, restaurants and in the workplace. After the law was passed in 2007, coalition ministers in Wales specifically made sure that the regulations also extended to actors smoking on set.

Assembly Members were due to vote on an amendment to the smoking law at the end of last year, but the vote never took place – largely because of a lack of support from Assembly Members.

Yesterday’s decision to abolish the plan though has been met with relief and joy by many anti-smoking campaigners and politicians.

Elen de Lacy, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) in Wales said: “We are delighted that plans to dilute the smoking ban in Wales have been dropped by the Welsh Government. The smoking ban has always been about protecting public health and all workers in Wales have a right to be protected from the harm of second-hand smoke, wherever they work. The film and TV industry’s demands have rightly been thrown out and we hope they never make these demands again. This decision sends a firm message to all industries who want to challenge our legislation, including the tobacco industry, that our values on public health are not for sale.”

The main calls for a relaxation in the smoking law came from BBC Wales, who had warned about an inadvertent impact to the economy in Wales if changes were not made. They argue that productions could withdraw from Wales and instead switch to England where such exemptions already exist – ergo bypassing the more restrictive Welsh law.

Changes to the law in Wales were being taken into consideration by two Assembly committees. Providing her case to the smoking sub-committee, BBC Wales’ head of productions Clare Hudson claimed that losing one particular drama would potentially cost Wales up to £12m.

However, Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford was a staunch opponent of the planned amendments to the smoking legislation. After taking up his position in March, one of his first aims was to stop any changes being made.

Shattering BBC Wales’ hopes, Prof Drakeford released a statement yesterday saying: “Prior to them being debated it was announced that the Enterprise and Business Committee and the Health and Social Care Committee of the Assembly would take evidence from all interested parties on this matter, with a view to producing a final report on their conclusions. The minister for economy, science and transport and I have reviewed the evidence presented to the sub-committees to date, and have concluded that the government will not proceed with the original proposals at this time.”

Plaid Cymru health spokeswoman Elin Jones was delighted with the news, commenting: “It was clear from the evidence given to the committee that creating an exemption from the ban was not justified on health or economic grounds. Reducing smoking must remain one of the priorities for the Health Minister. Banning smoking in public places has been a great success and we believe that there are further measures that the Welsh Government could take to reduce smoking.”

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