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Views And Reviews

Keep out of reach of children—the case for increasing the legal age for tobacco purchase to 21

BMJ 2019; 364 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l1330 (Published 27 March 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;364:l1330
  1. Nicholas S Hopkinson, reader in respiratory medicine
  1. National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College London, UK
  1. n.hopkinson{at}ic.ac.uk

Increasing the legal age for tobacco purchase should be combined with other measures to reduce smoking rates in young people

Achieving a smokefree generation—defined as smoking rates below 5% across all groups in society1—is a key public health goal, but not one that can be achieved simply by continuing with existing measures. Helping existing smokers to quit remains essential, but the most vital element is to stop young people from starting to smoke in the first place.

Most smokers start during childhood, hundreds in the UK each day,2 and two thirds of those who try smoking will go on to become regular smokers.3 In this context, the proposal from the …

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