British Medical Association (BMA) doctors have voted to demand a permanent ban on selling cigarettes to those born after the millennium – i.e. kids who are currently 14 or under. The group’s ambitious plan is to make British society tobacco free by 2035.
The motion was passed at a meeting on Tuesday.
“It is not expected that this policy will instantly prevent all people from smoking, but [rather it will] de-normalise cigarette smoking,” said London research assistant in academic public health, Dr Tim Crocker-Buqué at the meeting. “The level of harm caused by smoking is unconscionable.”
The decision was made at the British Medical Association’s annual representatives’ meeting on Tuesday. The doctors’ voting in favor means that the doctors’ union will push for the British government to introduce the ban.
The BMA has previously been successful in its attempts to clampdown on smoking. After votes in 2002 and 2011 bans on smoking in public places and cars carrying children were introduced.
According to Crocker-Buqué, some 100 million people died as a result of tobacco-related illness during the 20th century. He added that nine out of 10 smokers wished they had never started.
He added that teenagers cannot make informed choices about taking up the habit.
“Eighty per cent of smokers start as teenagers as a result of intense peer pressure,” he said. “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.”
BMA Northern Ireland council chair Paul Darragh – himself formerly a heavy smoker – denounced the cost of addiction:
“As doctors, we see first-hand the devastating effects of tobacco addiction,” he said. He went on to talk about how even after cancer is diagnosed, some patients don’t stop.
Sheila Hollins, chair of the BMA’s board of science, said the vote was a step towards helping to prevent children from entering the cycle of taking up smoking. The group has a plan to try and ensure British society is tobacco free by 2035.
However, some criticized the potential move, saying it could pave the way for black-market cigarette sales.
“The potential health risks of those may be even greater than those of legal cigarettes,” said Aberdeen medical student Adrianna Klejnotowska. Birmingham associate specialist in ENT, Yohanna Takwoingi, said that aiming for a total ban was just ‘headline grabbing’ and ‘sensationalist’.