A Southampton doctor has called for a total ban on cigarettes after treating young patients for smoking-related lung disease.
Anindo Banerjee, 41, a respiratory specialist at Southampton General Hospital, said cigarettes were increasingly becoming a major health problem for young people despite the ban on smoking in public.
He highlighted the case of a 19-year-old patient who he treated for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
"Year on year we are seeing increasing numbers of patients with severe chest diseases due to smoking in which the lungs are damaged, such as COPD," he said.
"Depressingly, large numbers of young people smoke, and they often believe that the warnings do not apply to them.
"We are seeing increasing numbers of young people whose lungs have been destroyed by smoking, who suffer the same breathlessness and restriction and whose lives are blighted by their 'enjoyment'. Our youngest patient with this disease is 19 years old."
Treatment can include lung transplants or surgery to cut away the most diseased parts of the lungs, allowing the remaining lung to work more efficiently.
"I totally agree. It's heartbreaking to see these young people damaging their bodies needlessly. Growing old is a privilege denied to so many, so why would young people take such risks with their health. My own grandson who is only 18 yrs smokes regularly and already has a smokers cough. I am passionate about helping people give up and see patients for smoking cessation as a regular part of my work as a practice nurse" - Anne St.Pier, Essex