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Welsh Government proposals could see smoking banned outside pubs, cafes and restaurants

Smoking could be banned outsides pubs, cafes and restaurants, if new Welsh Government proposals get the go-ahead.

ASH Wales has welcomed the plans which would see tough new anti-smoking laws extended to the outdoor seating areas of pubs, cafes, bars and restaurants to protect non-smokers from the effects of second hand smoke. The move follows concerns that smoking and exposure to second hand smoke, puts people at higher risk of suffering more severe symptoms if they catch Covid-19.

The ban on smoking in the outdoor seating areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants could come into force during the next Senedd term if the proposals are given the go-ahead.

New legislation is being planned to come into force shortly and will ban smoking in hospital grounds and schools under the Public Health (Wales) Act in a bid to protect the public from second hand smoke and de-normalise smoking in the eyes of young people.

Research by ASH Wales has shown there is strong public support for the introduction of tougher measures to curb smoking in Wales. Its research has shown that 63% of adults support a smoking ban in the outdoor seating areas of restaurants and cafes and over half (59%) support a ban on smoking in town centres.

ASH Wales’ latest YouGov survey showed that 68% of people in Wales would support the setting of an endgame target to reduce smoking to less than 5% of the population by 2030.

Currently in Wales 17% of adults smoke – an estimated 440,000 adults – and 45% of smokers tried to quit last year.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said: “Our Tobacco Control Delivery Plan for Wales sets a clear vision for a smoke-free society in Wales in which the harm from tobacco is eradicated.

“We have begun the process of setting our priorities for post-2020 to further reduce smoking rates to achieve our aim of a smoke-free Wales and I remain committed to making more of Wales’ public spaces smoke-free.”

Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said: “In Wales, where 83% of the population don’t smoke, it is crucially important that we introduce measures both to protect non-smokers, but also to de-normalise this devastating addiction and encourage smokers to seek help to quit.

“As lockdown restrictions are lifted and customers, including families with young children, return to the outdoor areas of pubs, cafes and restaurants, it is more important than ever to ensure that staff and customers are protected from breathing in second hand smoke which we know carries significant health risks.”

Keir Lewis professor of respiratory medicine at Swansea University, welcomed the proposals and explained the risk of smoking in enclosed outdoor seating areas: ” We know there is a direct risk from inhaling second-hand smoke due to  the small particulate matter going into the lungs and making people more likely to suffer from respiratory symptoms and narrowing of their airways. Moreover, the closer you are standing to someone, the higher the exposure to these fumes and molecules and the higher this risk. This risk is especially highest for those working in the hospitality industry who are exposed to second hand smoke on a daily basis because the effects are cumulative, even if they are outside.

“Theoretically there is also an increased risk of smokers passing on Covid-19 because they cough more often and when people cough, we know the droplets spread further than two metres. There is also the risk that those exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to cough and spread any of their droplets further.”

“During these uncertain times, anything we can do in terms of reducing discomfort and risk to others and ourselves, without any harm to others- is a really good thing.”

Smokers are more at risk from Covid-19 because they have weakened lung defences as a result of smoking, which damages the cells protecting their nose, upper and lower airways. Many have existing lung and heart conditions caused by smoking that increase their risk from the virus. They also have more regular hand to mouth contact, giving more chances for picking up the virus.

Data from the COVID Symptom Study app involving more than 3 million people from the UK, Sweden and the US found that current smokers were 14% more likely to develop the three classic symptoms of Covid-19 infection – fever, persistent cough and shortness of breath – than non-smokers.

Smokers were also 29% more likely to report more than five symptoms associated with Covid-19 and 50% more likely to report more than 10, including loss of smell, skipping meals, tiredness, diarrhoea, confusion and muscle pain. In addition, according to the data from the study, smokers were more than twice as likely as non-smokers to end up in hospital with severe symptoms of Covid-19 having tested positive for the disease.