Most doctors back wider smoking ban

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DOCTORS are becoming increasingly hawkish over smoking, according to a survey by the British Medical Association's News Review, writes Nicholas Timmins.

Eighty per cent believe it should be banned in all public indoor places and almost a quarter believe patients with smoking-related diseases should get lower priority on the NHS.

Seventy-five per cent believe the age for legally buying cigarettes should be raised from 16 to 18 - and one-third believe the sale of cigarettes to children under 16 should be an imprisonable offence.

Nine out of 10 would like to see a rise in tobacco tax and nearly seven out of 10 favour increasing the price of cigarettes from the present pounds 2.50 or so a packet to pounds 4 to discourage smoking. The figures come from a survey of more than 900 doctors to which just under half replied, revealing a distinctly aggressive approach to persuading people to give up tobacco.

Almost a quarter said those with smoking or alcohol-related diseases should be given lower priority on the NHS and a still higher proportion said they should receive lower priority if they refused to give up after developing a smoking-related disease, or one that could be exacerbated by smoking.

The finding that a significant minority of doctors believe that those with smoking-related diseases should be given lower priority worried Dr Sandy Macara, chairman of the BMA's council, who said he was surprised.

'Treating patients according to their need is a matter of absolute principle and one that I would never compromise,' he said.