British Medical Association Proposes Radical Tobacco Sales Ban

The British Medical Association has a goal. A tobacco-free society by 2035. That’s quite a goal, especially considering that 10 million, or about 1 in every 5 adults, in the UK smokes cigarettes, according to Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) findings

Their latest plan to make this happen? They want to ban tobacco sales in the United Kingdom to anyone born in the 2nd millenium. That would apply to anyone who is 14 or younger. According to proposed motion, if your identification shows you were born from January 1, 2000 or later, you will never be legally allowed to purchase tobacco. 

This is an interesting concept, but for me personally, it brings back visions of moonshine, speakeasies and the unregulated black market of America’s 1920’s prohibition-era.

Here is what the members of the BMA had to say: 

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.

Even though the motion passed, there were still some members who were strongly against it. Here’s what they had to say: 

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 is simply that, a motion. But the fact that the doctors voted so strongly for it is interesting. Hopefully we can find a less overreaching method of reducing smoking rates and achieving a smoke free society, but it will be interesting to see how this plays out.

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