The BMA should campaign to ban the sale of cigarettes to anyone born after the year 2000, public health doctors agreed.
They called for action owing to the substantial harm to health caused by cigarettes and the difficulty in breaking an addiction to nicotine.
London research assistant in academic public health Tim Crocker-Buqué maintained: ‘Humanity has never developed anything more deadly than the cigarette.
‘The combination of its addictive power and devastating health effects combined with historical social norms and powerful advertising campaigns killed 100 million people in the 20th century.
‘The continuing epidemic is predicted to kill hundreds of millions more over the 21st century.’
Dr Crocker-Buqué told today’s BMA annual public health medicine conference in London that eight in 10 smokers started in their teenage years and that someone who started smoking at 15 was more than three times more likely to die from smoking-related cancer than someone who started in their 20s.
‘This is a highly addictive product that kills 50 per cent of the users and it is so patently over the balance of harm that we must now work to prevent the next generation from falling into the nicotine trap,’ he said.
‘I do not want our children smoking and nor should anybody else. If they haven’t already started, then let’s keep them smoke free for life.’
London SpR in public health Iain Kennedy questioned whether banning cigarettes for a certain population forever was sustainable policy, and asked why 13 to 14 year-olds were targeted in particular.
He said: ‘It is a great sentiment but I think picking the year 2000 in particular and the picking this partial prohibition is a bit nonsensical.’
Yet Dr Crocker-Buqué countered that this was ‘progressive prohibition’.
BMA public health medicine committee co-chair Mark Temple added: ‘If we prevent access to a group that is growing older through time then gradually we will stop easy access to tobacco products.’
The conference also called on the BMA to mount a campaign for all local authority pension funds not to include investments relating to tobacco companies.
London specialty trainee 1 academic clinical fellow in public health Taavi Tillmann said more than £1bn of taxpayers’ money was invested in funds with tobacco connections by local authorities.
He pointed out that public health specialists were required to minimise smoking to protect the health of their population but that those working on local authority contracts were automatically enrolled into local authority pension schemes
Dr Tillmann said: ‘This obviously creates a gross conflict of interest if ever there was one, whereby practitioners have to choose in a methodological fashion between maximising the health of their population on the one hand against maximising their income on retirement on the other hand.’