Isn’t it daft to let a 50-year-old smoke but not someone aged 44?

<span>Smoking was allowed on the London Underground until 1987.</span><span>Photograph: Barry Lewis/Corbis/Getty Images</span>
Smoking was allowed on the London Underground until 1987.Photograph: Barry Lewis/Corbis/Getty Images

I read Prof Chris Whitty’s article with interest (This new bill could wipe out smoking – the only losers would be those who profit from it, 16 April). I have the utmost respect for his medical expertise; I have none. I am a former smoker who started young. I do not oppose legislation to bring about behavioural change, in general. But the prospect in 30 years’ time of a 50-year-old having to buy cigarettes for a 44-year-old is a practical nonsense. Either ban smoking, or don’t – I can see no justification for the law in the future seeing a 50-year-old as competent to understand the risks of smoking and buy tobacco, but not a 44-year-old.

We know already from the war on drugs (among other things) that the end result of prohibition is a black market; this will be as true for cigarettes for younger generations as it is for recreational drugs now. How much police time and money will then be wasted trying to crack down on that market in the future?

As he is a doctor, I understand where Prof Whitty’s opinion stems from, and agree with the assessment that it will stop some young people from ever starting. What I fear is that eventually an unregulated black market selling cigarettes that are not subject to quality control and may have been adulterated will cause more deaths in the long run, both directly but also indirectly, as police time that could be better used is instead focused on tackling a problem of our own creation.
Torran Turner
Littleborough, Greater Manchester

• Your report says that some of the more libertarian members of the government such as Kemi Badenoch claim that restrictions on buying cigarettes are an infringement on personal freedom (Saving us from ourselves: how Britain is learning to accept the nanny state, 19 April).

Badenoch is part of a government that has just enacted the biggest assault on personal freedom in my lifetime by criminalising various forms of peaceful protest. Apparently you can now be charged with a public order offence for holding a placard or walking slowly along the public highway. The next step will be an arrest for looking at a policeman in a funny way.

Freedom of expression is a basic part of any human rights legislation. Freedom to smoke is not. But it’s interesting that Badenoch thinks it’s more important to defend the rights of smokers to try to force me to endure passive smoking than to stand up for my right to freedom of expression. It’s interesting what people who think they are libertarians are happy to defend and what they want to clamp down on. A future leader of the Conservative party? God help us all.
Dave Pollard

• Simon Jenkins (19 April) says that the New Zealand smoking ban legislation was withdrawn due to unpopularity and a change of government. It was in fact vastly popular with the public (as it is in the UK), and repealing it was not in the National party’s election manifesto. The U-turn was brought about by pressure from lobby groups backed by the tobacco industry, and the insistence of the junior coalition partner New Zealand First.

He also plays down the ongoing impact of cigarettes in the UK. Although there has been a slow but steady decline since the 1970s, we recently heard how rates are rising among some groups. This ban would protect future generations from one of the leading causes of preventable death and illness. Concerns about authoritarianism and that spreading to other personal choices are scaremongering.
Richard Thorley

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