Consider complete ban on cigarettes

I unequivocally support the proposal to raise the minimum age of smoking from the present 18 to 21 ("Proposal to raise smoking age to 21"; Dec 30).

Tobacco kills. Yet, it is common to see young adults and teenagers puffing in areas where the young congregate.

We cannot remain complacent, bearing in mind the societal costs and personal tragedies.

The effectiveness of anti-smoking strategies, such as increased tobacco taxes, graphic warnings on cigarette packages and public education campaigns, has apparently reached saturation point.

New strategies are needed.

There are no simple answers to why young people smoke.

Peer influence is the most common reason. Smoking together gives them a sense of belonging.

Coping with stress is another factor in our high-tempo lifestyles. The inhaled nicotine activates pleasure areas of the brain, creating positive feelings and sensations.

Most smokers begin their habit as young adults. It is difficult to appreciate the risks of smoking when the consequences seem so far away.

More importantly, many young smokers wrongly believe that they can quit any time they want, before adverse health consequences kick in.

Tragically, many discover later in life that it is a Herculean task to kick the nicotine habit.

It is so much easier to just not start smoking at all.

Nicotine is highly addictive. Once the body becomes used to it, a person needs it just to feel normal.

The new proposal hopefully would restrict malleable young people's access to tobacco.

It will also help stop underage smokers who are dependent on their older peers to buy cigarettes.

Also, once one reaches the age of 21, smoking seems less attractive as a form of rebellion.

In short, a higher smoking age cuts tobacco deaths down the road.

However, we can crack down even more by imposing a complete ban of cigarette sales to those born after 2000.

Our future generations deserve better.

This proposal may seem drastic but we should be open-minded enough to weigh its pros and cons - after all, we were the first country in the world to ban chewing gum.

Edmund Lam (Dr)