Convenience store owners may be required to hold a licence to sell cigarettes in the latest crackdown on underage smokers.
The British Medical Association (BMA) proposed the measure in its report, Breaking the Cycle of Children's Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, published last month. It also called 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 known to be considering a negative licensing scheme, which would remove the right to sell tobacco from any retailer repeatedly breaking the law on underage sales, as well as a ban on 10-packs and turning tobacco into a 'dark' market. However, any of these would require new legislation, and there is no time in the current parliamentary calendar to discuss them.
Association of Convenience Stores chief executive James Lowman called the licensing proposal a "poorly targeted measure". He added: "More must be done to focus on the irresponsible minority who are caught selling tobacco to the underage, but who only receive a fraction of the maximum £2,500 fine. Why invent new measures when existing penalties aren't used effectively?"
The ACS suggests 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 have been consistently ignored," said Lowman.

Topics