Health

Ban new smokers, call from BMA conference

  • 24 June 2014
  • From the section Health
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Image caption The government and Labour defended their approaches to the NHS

Smoking should be banned for anyone born in the UK in the 21st Century, doctors say.

Delegates at the British Medical Association (BMA) annual conference voted in favour of a motion to prohibit smoking to anyone born after 2000.

The BMA is now expected to start lobbying government to agree to the move.

Doctors argued tough action was needed because most smokers became hooked at a young age.

Public health doctor Dr Tim Crocker-Buque said it was essential to protect the young as 80% of smokers took up the habit when they were teenagers and "almost all" had taken up the habit by the time they were in their early 20s.

"Smoking is not a rational and informed choice of adolescence."

He said introducing the legislation would help to "denormalise" smoking, adding: "It is time to play the tobacco end game."

'Headline grabbing'

Other doctors argued while controversial it was important the BMA took a lead on the issue, as they had done in the lead up to the ban on smoking in public places.

Dr Stephen Watkins, a public health specialist and member of the BMA's council - its governing body - backed the idea, saying it made no sense to allow smoking and ban drugs such as heroin.

"This motion is the first step in removing this pernicious distinction."

But Dr Yohanna Takwoingi, an ear, nose and throat specialist from the West Midlands, spoke out against the motion at the conference in Harrogate.

He said: "It is a headline grabbing initiative that would bring ridicule to the profession."

He added it would only encourage young people to take up smoking as it would become a "forbidden fruit".

Simon Clark, director of the tobacco lobby 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."

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