Doctors’ vote for a permanent ban on the sale of cigarettes to those born after 2000 received an overwhelming response.
The motion was passed at the British Medical Association’s annual meeting on Tuesday implies that the union will now lobby government for an introduction of the ban, in the same fashion as it pushed for a ban on smoking in public places and in cars carrying children.
A specialist registrar in public health medicine, Time Croker-Buque, who is responsible for the proposal of the motion, said it was an opportunity for the UK to become the first country to eradicate cigarettes. He said that smoking is not an informed or rational adult choice, since 80% of smokers start the habit during their teenage years, normally as a result of peer pressure. He added that those who start smoking at the age of 15 are three times more risk of death as someone who commences smoking in during their twenties.
The Chair of the BMA’s Board of Science, Sheila Hollins, supported the proposal and said it would aid in breaking the cycle of childhood smoking and be one step closer to the achievement of the goal of the association to have a tobacco-free society by 2035.
There were a number of doctors who were opposed to the proposal. According to Yohanna Takwoingi from Birmingham, the number of 11 to 15 year olds who smoke has dropped by 50% in the past 16 years. He said that an overall ban would be seen as a headline-grabbing move which could lead to the profession being ridiculed. He also stated that if tobacco sales are banned, so should alcohol sales.
However, Crocker-Buque stated that tobacco and alcohol are not the same and prohibition cannot work in the same fashion, as most people who use alcohol do so in a safe manner.
Other opponents to the ban stated that it would demonise the working class and could lead to a cigarette trade black market that may become more dangerous than its legal equivalent.
Prior to the vote, the smokers’ group, Forest, and the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, both asked that existing laws which stop children smoking should instead be enforced. Forest’s Simon Clark said the proposal was unenforceable, arbitrary and non-liberal.
The motion was first passed at the February BMA Public Health Conference.
Image Credit: Michael Hooper