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The Case for Banning Cigarettes Entirely, Forever, This Time I Mean It

The Case for Banning Cigarettes Entirely, Forever, This Time I Mean It
Illustration by Braulio Amado

Doctors in the U.K. will vote on Tuesday as to whether to support a “campaign to ban forever the sale of cigarettes to any individual born after the year 2000.” It’s an appealing thought exercise for public health types: Smoking rates declined steadily in the late 20th century as the health hazards became more widely understood. So what would happen if children born in the 2000s—those just now hitting their years of tobacco experimentation—were barred from buying cigarettes—not just until they reach adulthood, but forever?

The flaws in this prohibition-by-generation proposal aren’t hard to detect. Children under 16 were barred from buying cigarettes in England and Wales until 2007, when the age was raised to 18 (PDF), as it is in most of the U.S.. Despite widespread bans on sales of cigarettes to kids, kids still try smoking cigarettes, and some get hooked.