A generational ban on tobacco sales risks adding to the illicit trade, according to a new research paper.

Free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs warned that plans to ban anyone born after 2008 from purchasing tobacco products will only cause an increase in the black market economy and harm legitimate government revenue.

The government is currently consulting on plans for this, along with proposals to tackle underage vaping.

“As the black market grows, tobacco tax revenues will decline, criminal gangs will become richer and more powerful, and, paradoxically, children will find it easier to access cheap cigarettes,” said Christopher Snowdon, the IEA’s head of lifestyle economics.

The research cited examples of tobacco bans that have led to an increase in illicit activity and countries that have scrapped planned legislation including New Zealand and Malaysia.

Snowdon added that the emergence of e-cigarettes and other reduced-risk nicotine delivery products is steadily diminishing demand for traditional tobacco, rendering cigarettes increasingly redundant without the need for a ban.

He said: “The absurdities of a generational tobacco ban will become apparent as soon as the first group of teenagers turns 18 in 2026. The problems of enforcement, criminality and dwindling tax revenues will emerge more slowly but inexorably. The government’s justifications for this huge infringement on personal liberty do not stack up. The New Zealand and Malaysian governments have now turned their back on this prohibitionist ruse and it is time for the British government to look beyond the headlines and have a serious rethink.”