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Store owners may be required to hold a licence for the sale of cigarettes in the latest proposal to crack down on underage smokers.
The British Medical Association (BMA) proposed the measure in its report, Breaking the Cycle of Children's Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, issued this week. It also calls for 10-packs of cigarettes to be banned and for tobacco products to be kept under the counter.
BMA head of science and ethics Dr Vivienne Nathanson said: “Forcing shops selling cigarettes to have a licence, the way they do to sell alcohol, would be a public recognition of the dangers of tobacco. Cigarettes kill more people than guns or alcohol in the UK and we need to change the culture of cigarette buying to recognise that.”
In a 2006 survey of Scottish BMA members, 93% of doctors said they were in favour of a tobacco licensing scheme. The government is said to be considering a ‘negative licensing’ scheme which would remove the right to sell tobacco products from any retailer breaking the law on underage sales.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman called the proposal a “poorly targeted measure,” saying that licensing for all shops selling tobacco would impose significant costs and bureaucracy on responsible retailers.
“More must be done to focus on the irresponsible minority who are caught selling tobacco to the underage but are only receiving a fraction of the maximum £2500 fine available for the offence,” he added. “Why invent new measures to catch all retailers when existing penalties are not being used effectively?”
The ACS suggests that the entire community has a role to play in tackling underage smoking. “We are disappointed that the BMA has not urged the Government to make it illegal for a young person to attempt to buy tobacco when underage, or to make it illegal for an adult to buy tobacco on behalf of someone underage. These two measures are a vital part of a comprehensive approach to reducing underage smoking and yet have been consistently ignored,” said Lowman.

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Arjan Mehr:

"The government has made no attempt to have comprehensive ID cards nor has it accepted that it is difficult to identify underage children 100% of the time. Trading standard should identify shops which are flouting the law consistently rather than use methods of entrapment to try and catch shopkeepers, the vast majority of whom are doing their best to stay on the right side of the law. More legislation is not the answer to stop a tiny minority who may be flouting the law. The assumption by the MBA that shops may be the main cause of supply is flawed."

Raj Kamani:

"I think the people who think these things up live in Cloud Cuckoo Land and they have no idea of what we have to go through just to make ends meet. Why not put booze under the counter as well, its another way for them to earn more money. ACS hit the nail on the head, but I think we should make better use of that hammer and bring those white collar bods back to reality. Stop fags coming in from abroad and that will reduce your percentage, then carry on test purchasing and that will help. DON'T PUT CIGARETTES UNDER THE COUNTER,LICENCE THEM OR CHARGE THE POOR RETAILER FOR ALL THE RED TAPE THAT KEEPS BEING CREATED. AND THAT'S ALL I'VE GOT SAY."

Graeme Puddifoot:

"There are only two bodies that make significant gain from the sale of tobacco, the government and the tobacco companies. If the proposed licence is the same as the alcohol licence costing nearly £200 per year, the increase in tobacco sales to break even would work against the thrust of reducing smoking! Does this caring government think the independent shop owner, already decimated by its support of supermarkets, can sustain yet another dent in their hard earned profit? If they want to stop people smoking BAN TOBACCO. I for one will stop selling any tobacco products rather than pay yet another stealth tax."