SALES of cigarettes should be banned for anyone born this century in efforts to combat tobacco use, doctors have said.
Delegates at the British Medical Association’s conference overwhelmingly backed calls for cigarette sales to be prohibited to anyone born after the year 2000.
They called on the doctors’ union to campaign for such a ban to help break the cycle of young people becoming addicted to tobacco.
Dr Tim Crocker-Buque, from the BMA’s Junior Doctors Committee, said by banning the sale of cigarettes to people born after 2000 it would begin to create the first “tobacco-free generation”.
“Smoking is not a rational, informed choice of adulthood,” he told the meeting in Harrogate.
“80 per cent of smokers start as teenagers as a result of intense peer pressure and a desperate desire to seem more adult.
“Almost all have begun by their early 20s.
“Someone who starts smoking at age 15 is three times more likely to die of a tobacco related cancer than someone who starts in their mid-20s.”
Dr Crocker-Buque said the proposal would be to gradually phase out the sale of cigarettes to the next generation, with no impact on current smokers.
“As this generation reach 18 in 2018 they would be prevented from buying cigarettes for their lifetime in a move that would progressively phase out cigarette sales,” he said.
“It’s time to play the tobacco end game.”
But other doctors expressed concerns about the move.
Dr Yohanna Takwoingi, from the West Midlands, said the suggestion of a sales ban had been described as the “craziest idea ever” and “idiotic” by some commentators.
He said there was “nothing as attractive to a young person as the command ‘don’t’.”
Despite the reservations, doctors backed the proposals to push for a ban on sales to those born after 2000.
Dr Sally Winning, deputy chair of the BMA in Scotland, said: “We need to ensure that public health policies protect young people and the debate on banning the sale of cigarettes to people born after the year 2000 expresses a sentiment that cannot be ignored by governments.”
Simon Clark, director of the smokers’ group Forest, said: “Prohibition doesn’t work. It will create a huge black market in cigarettes and drive generations of adult smokers into the hands of illicit traders.
“Criminalising adults for buying tobacco is illiberal and impractical.
“Tobacco is still a legal product and you can’t permit some adults to buy cigarettes but deny that right to others.
“In 2035, for example, it could be legal for a 36-year-old to buy cigarettes but a 35-year-old might be committing an offence.
“Once again the BMA is indulging in gesture politics for the sake of a cheap headline.”
A TMA spokesman said: “The BMA motion to ban the sale of a legal product to those born after 2000 would mean that in future, some members of the adult community will be able to purchase cigarettes and some will not.
“This form of prohibition is another indication of a poorly thought through tobacco control measure.
“The BMA should reject this nonsensical measure and instead focus on measures likely to reduce young people’s access to tobacco like a ban on proxy purchasing, education programmes and eradicating the illegal tobacco widely available in our communities.”
Meanwhile, the conference rejected a motion for cannabis to be decriminalised in efforts to treat use of the drug as a public health issue to help addicts.