Doctors have voted down a motion that would push for the legalisation of cannabis, but have instead called for anyone born after the year 2000 to be banned from ever buying cigarettes.
Some doctors at the British Medical Association's annual representative meeting in Harrogate had argued the cannabis issue should be dealt with by the health profession and not the criminal justice system. But the majority of delegates did not agree.
In a radical bid to stop youngsters from taking up smoking in the first place, doctors have said that anyone born after the millennium should be prohibited from purchasing cigarettes. Such a measure could create the first "smoke free generation", medics said.
Doctors voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of a motion calling for the union to campaign to "ban forever the sale of cigarettes to any individual born after the year 2000".
Presenting the motion Dr Tim Crocker-Buque said: "The level of harm caused by smoking is unconscionable. Smoking is a choice made by adolescents that results in an adulthood of addiction and an early death.
"By banning the sale of cigarettes to people born after 2000 we begin to create the first tobacco free generation."
Dr Crocker-Buque added: "Smoking is not a rational, informed choice of adulthood, 80% of smokers start as teenagers as a result of intense peer pressure and a desperate desire to seem more adult.
"This proposal would gradually phase out the sale of cigarettes to the next generation, with no impact on current smokers.
"As this generation reach 18 in 2018 they would be prevented from buying cigarettes for their lifetime in a move that would progressively phase out cigarette sales.
"It is not expected that this policy will instantly prevent people from smoking. Instead it aims to progressively de-normalise cigarette smoking."
Speaking against the motion Dr Yohanna Takwoingi said the "headline grabbing" idea was "idiotic" adding: "There is nothing as attractive to a young person as the command 'don't'."
Dr Iain Kennedy, from the BMA's junior doctors conference, added: "Figures show that 19% of smokers are managerial or professional versus 33 % in manual classes. I am not convinced that we as a trade union should be supporting policy which demonises and criminalises the activity of working people." He added the prospect would be "unworkable".
Pro-smoking group Forest also spoke out against the motion. "Prohibition doesn't work," said the group's director Simon Clark. "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."Suggest a correction