By Professor Steve Tomlinson, Emeritus Professor of Medicine, Cardiff University and Chairman of ASH Wales
Wales’s smoke-free premises legislation has proved to be one of our most successful public health measures, now accepted by more than 80% of the public, and a clear signal that Wales is tough on tobacco.
Although Wales once led calls for the ban, the Welsh Government is now planning to make an exemption for the creative industries – a backward step that could set a dangerous precedent for other industries, and nations, to follow.
Any watering down of the legislation will be detrimental to achieving the ambitious target of a reduction in smoking prevalence rates in Wales from 23% to 16% by 2020 and will undermine efforts by doctors, teachers, health workers and all those who work with children to de-glamorise and de-normalise smoking.
This exemption gives out completely the wrong signal to young people who are strongly influenced by the behaviour of celebrities and TV personalities.
The Welsh Government argues that Wales will be at a disadvantage to England if we don’t have the same exemption but the ‘possibility’ of more productions coming to Wales is not a strong enough argument to justify exposing actors and crew to second hand smoke and opening the floodgates to other industries in the future. Film and television productions such as Casualty moved from Bristol to Wales when there was no exemption, and Wales is already seen as an attractive environment for filming in its own right.
The law was introduced on health grounds and there is no new evidence to support changing the law on any other grounds.
If this exemption goes ahead it will undermine all the work that has already been done on tobacco control since the smoke-free legislation was introduced in 2007 and will be a significant step backwards for Wales both politically and in public health terms.
Wales once led the UK with its vision for a smoke-free Wales and we cannot be seen to be watering it down simply because England has done so.
Please write to your local AM to oppose this move which is being voted on in the Senedd on October 16. You can find a template letter and briefing on the ASH Wales website http://www.ashwales.org.uk/smoking-in-film-and-tv/