The Association believes that tackling the problem of underage smoking requires a wide ranging approach and legislation in this area would represent a significant step towards in tackling teen smoking.
The BMA welcomed the recent age increase for tobacco sales. However, introducing a licensing system, bringing tobacco into line with alcohol, would ensure that the age increase is effectively enforced and would deliver the message to rogue traders that action will be taken against offenders.
With over three quarters of regular smokers aged 15 and almost half of regular smokers aged 13 in Scotland reported to have bought cigarettes from a shop in 2006, it is clear that the age restrictions are not being adhered to. Radical action is required to reduce school children's access to tobacco.
BMA Scotland would support the introduction of a positive licensing scheme, similar to the system already in place for shops that wish to sell alcohol. In a recent survey, 93% of doctors called for retailers to be encouraged to stop selling to underage children by the introduction of a licence to sell cigarettes, which would be removed for persistent offenders.
Dr Peter Terry, Chair of BMA Scotland, said:
· I welcome the publication of Christine Grahame's consultation and feel that legislation in this area would represent another step forward for Scotland in tackling one of its biggest preventable causes of death.
· Strict sanctions against retailers that break the law are required, and taking away the assumed right to sell tobacco products would convey this message.
· We need to convey the important social message that tobacco is harmful and discourage young people from starting such an addictive and dangerous habit.
· Introducing a licensing scheme for tobacco would be an effective part of a package of measures to achieve this.
· This may be the more costly option but the BMA believes that the human cost of a life addicted to tobacco is far greater than the costs of implementing such a system.