Exempting film sets from smoking ban would undermine health message according to evidence, Plaid reveals


The Welsh Government made it clear six years ago that exempting film and TV sets from six years ago would undermine the message about the dangers of exposure to second-hand smoke, Plaid Cymru can reveal.

Correspondence obtained by Plaid Cymru under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed the strong case for not exempting stage performances from the smoking ban which was introduced in 2007.

The Welsh Government has said it supports an exemption on economic grounds but has agreed to invite the health and enterprise committees to hear the arguments.

Elin Jones, the Party of Wales’ shadow spokesperson on health, said: “Exposure to second-hand smoke was harmful in 2006 and is still harmful in 2012.

“Any relaxation of the current regulations would send the wrong health message to the public and there are alternatives to cigarettes available. Is the economic case for allowing this exemption more important than public health? I have grave concerns about any move to weaken this important piece of legislation.

“I also do not want to see any move which would lead to smoking on stage being glamorised, influencing children.”

A briefing prepared by the Welsh Government following a Press inquiry from the New York Times in 2006 said: “The health reasons for prohibiting smoking in public places and workplaces are well established. Those working on theatre and film sets require the same level of protection as other workers.

“An exemption for performers would undermine the health message about the harm from exposure to second-hand smoke, and would appear unfair to the wider public in Wales.”

Then Health Minister Brian Gibbons said in a letter to the Assembly’s Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee, said: “The Assembly Government has taken the decision not to provide an exemption for performers. The health rationale for smoke-free provision applies in all enclosed settings.”

Another briefing for Ministers said: “Spectators at theatrical events require the same protection as other members of the public.”

In further correspondence, it was said that the Scottish Executive felt there were “alternatives to allow the realistic portrayal of smoking.”

Although supporting relaxation of the ban on stage or on set, Alun Pugh, then Culture Minister, said in correspondence to Brian Gibbons: “I understand your concerns about an exemption, as the Welsh Assembly Government is introducing the ban on smoking in public places because of the substantial strength of the evidence about the health risks of exposure to second-hand smoke, some of these risks would still apply on a stage or film set.”