Doctors have voted overwhelmingly to push for a permanent ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after 2000
The motion passed at the British Medical Association’s annual representatives’ meeting on Tuesday means that the doctors’ union will lobby the government to introduce the ban, in the same way it successfully pushed for a ban on lighting up in public places and on smoking in cars carrying children, after votes in 2002 and 2011.
Tim Crocker-Buque, a specialist registrar in public health medicine, who proposed the motion, said it represented an opportunity to make the UK the first country to eradicate cigarettes. “Smoking is not a rational, informed choice of adulthood,” he said. “Eighty per cent of smokers start as teenagers as a result of intense peer pressure.
“Smokers who start smoking at age 15 are three times as likely to die of smoking-related cancer as someone who starts in their mid-20s.”
The proposal was supported by Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA’s board of science, who said it would help “break the cycle of children starting to smoke” and be a step towards achieving the association’s goal of a tobacco-free society by 2035.
A number of doctors spoke against the proposal. Yohanna Takwoingi from Birmingham said the number of 11 to 15-year-olds smoking had halved in 16 years. “Seeking a headline ban is a headline-grabbing initiative that may lead to ridicule of the profession,” he said. He also said that alcohol should be banned if tobacco was.
But Crocker-Buque said: “Tobacco is not the same as alcohol and prohibition will not work in the same way. The vast majority of people who use alcohol do safely.”
Other opponents said a ban would demonise the working classes and lead to a black market in the trade of cigarettes that would be potentially more dangerous than their legal equivalent.
Ahead of the vote, the proposal was condemned by the smokers’ group Forest and the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, who both said that existing laws stopping children smoking should be enforced.
Simon Clark of Forest called the proposal “arbitrary, unenforceable and completely illiberal”.
The motion was initially passed at the BMA’s public health conference in February.