09/06/2015 15:42 BST | Updated 09/06/2016 06:12 BST

E-Cigarette Ban Bid 'Fear-Driven'

The inventor of the e-cigarette has said calls to ban them in enclosed public places are "fear-driven" as Wales looks set to bring new rules in.

The Welsh Government said it wants to bring the devices in line with existing smoking laws, with Health Minister Mark Drakeford describing them as a "gateway" to deadly tobacco that risks "renormalising smoking".

But Hon Lik, who had his idea patented in his native China in 2003, said the potential risks of vaping had been "over-exaggerated" and there was much misinformation about the products.

Speaking on a visit to London, Mr Hon said e-cigarettes were much safer than conventional smoking.

"E-cigarettes are a safer alternative to the smokers who use conventional tobacco," he said through an interpreter.

"There are many experts and scientists that recognise this fact."

Asked what he thought of the ban, he added: "If this kind of regulation misguide people to mistrust e-cigarettes, that is not a very good thing, we should not do this. It's fear-driven."

Mr Hon, who came up with his idea in the early 2000s after getting through up to three packs of cigarettes a day, said he gets a "great feeling of achievement" from seeing his invention used around the world.

Anti-smoking group Ash estimates there are now 2.6 million "vapers" in the UK – with e-cigarette firms frequently marketing their products as being a cheaper and less harmful alternative to conventional smoking.

But the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) recently warned that while e-cigarettes may be "moderately effective" in helping smokers quit, they needed the same restrictions as cigarettes to avoid uptake by young people and non-smokers.

ESC spokesman Professor Joep Perk said: "Smoking of all types is still, without any competition, the strongest risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

"It beats everything. There has been a lot of research over the past two to three years which makes us very clear that all tobacco use, including the waterpipe, smokeless tobacco and electronic cigarettes, is simply not good for your health."

The Welsh proposals form part of a new Public Health Bill, which also aims to make it illegal to hand over tobacco to under 18s as well as introducing licensing laws for tattooists.

Labour politician Professor Drakeford said: "The Bill will mean that anywhere you can't use a conventional cigarette, then you won't be able to use an e-cigarette either.

"It will prevent the re-normalisation of smoking.

"We have worked so hard in Wales to try and bear down on the harm that smoking does – and allowing e-cigarettes to be used in the way they currently are risks undoing the progress that has been made."

He said that last year in Wales 5,450 people died from diseases as a result of being addicted to tobacco.

Since smoking was banned in enclosed public places in the late noughties and the continued rise in the price of tobacco, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people using e-cigarettes.

Wales' chief medical officer Dr Ruth Hussey welcomed stricter controls on piercing and the licensing of tattooists.

She said: "There are well-known health risks associated with skin piercing procedures if they are carried out unhygienically and this Bill will ensure that only those with safe working practices can carry out these procedures."