The Welsh government has proposed introducing a minimum price for alcohol of 50p per unit and restricting the use of e-cigarettes in public places.
It has published a White Paper which also proposes introducing a tobacco retailers’ register requiring businesses to inform authorities if they sell tobacco. Those which sell to under 18s would face stiffer penalties.
A proposed restriction on the use of e-cigarettes in public places aims to address concerns that the products normalise smoking and undermine the enforcement of the smoking ban.
Health minister Mark Drakeford said: “There is indisputable evidence that the price of alcohol matters. It’s no coincidence that as the affordability of alcohol has increased substantially, so has alcohol-related death and disease. A minimum unit price will make a strong contribution to preventing alcohol overuse and misuse and reducing alcohol-associated illnesses.
“I have concerns about the impact of e-cigarettes on the enforcement of Wales’ smoking ban. That’s why we are proposing restricting their use in enclosed public places.
“I am also concerned that their use in enclosed public places could normalise smoking behaviour.”
The tobacco register would require all retailers selling tobacco to pay a £30 fee to register with their local authority and then pay a £20 re-registration fee every three years.
A Scottish scheme, which allowed retailers to register online or via a manual form, was introduced in 2011 with no cost to the retail trade.
It was designed to reduce the volume of illicit tobacco currently being sold in markets, and on street corners. The risk of losing the licence was also designed to deter retailers from selling illicit stock.
Des Barr of Sinclair Barr news in Paisley Renewshire said: “This is just another piece of bureaucracy that won’t have any impact on illicit sales. The idea of a register is good in principle but from my experience the reality is that it has next no impact as the authorities are not doing nearly enough to enforce it. At the moment it’s not acting as a deterrent.”
Association of Convenience Stores (ACS) chief executive James Lowman said a register was “a costly, bureaucratic and completely unnecessary burden to impose on retailers in Wales”.
Minimum alcohol pricing of 50p per unit was due to come into effect in Scotland in 2013, but it has been delayed by a legal challenge from the Scotch Whisky Association.
“We are not convinced that minimum unit pricing is the most effective measure for tackling alcohol related health harms, but we would not oppose its introduction as a consistent policy throughout the UK,” Lowman added.
“However, we are very concerned by a situation where there could be a number of different pricing rules imposed in different parts of the UK and we will make this clear in our response to the consultation.”