PLANS to ban the use of e-cigarettes in public in Wales will take a step closer next week.

AMs will discuss the plans to ban the activity in schools, hospitals, places serving food and public transport on Tuesday and Wednesday, with a final vote to be taken on March 15.

Health minister Mark Drakeford had originally hoped to ban the use of e-cigarettes – or ‘vaping’ – in all enclosed places in the country, bringing the law in line with the regular smoking ban, but following widespread opposition the plans were scaled back in January.

Now, a series of proposed amendments, to be discussed this week, could see the ban cover public places like playgrounds, shops, cinemas and zoos.

But with many smokers using e-cigarettes to help them kick the habit, many have said the ban would make this much more difficult.

Among these are the Welsh Conservative’s shadow health minister Darren Millar, who said it would be “a huge step backwards”.

“Labour ministers are totally misguided in their war on e-cigarettes. There is no evidence supporting their plans and they should have been ditched months ago.

“We should be giving people a helping hand to quit smoking – not placing obstacles in their way; and i would urge all opposition AMs to unite and block Labour’s bid for a ban."

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have also criticised the plan, claiming research has shown an extra 22,000 people in England successfully quit smoking in 2014 using e-cigarettes.

The group’s leader Kirsty Williams called on AMs to “consign the vaping bill to the dustbin of history”.

“The aim of public health policy is to save lives,” she said. “Labour’s ban, if anything, will have the opposite effect.”

Mr Drakeford has previously said the proposed ban was the “simplest, clearest and most proportionate means of preventing harm”.

He said: “I am not prepared, and I do not believe this Assembly should not be prepared, to do nothing in the hope that harm might not occur.”

Newport East AM John Griffiths has also previously spoken in favour of the ban.