So public health minister Tessa Jowell wants to criminalise those smokers aged 16 and 17, who can presently be legally sold tobacco products (News Focus, page 10, 4 December).

The message for smokers aged 16 and 17 is that New Labour has designs to extend the paternalistic reach of the state, and nanny them for two extra years. Ms Jowell went even further and commented that the intention is to stop young people smoking 'before they are 20'. Does this mean the government's goal is to increase the legal age to 20?

There is no evidence to suggest that raising the 'age' will reduce under- age smoking. Perversely, its impact will be to increase under-age smokers.

Is this the deliberate intention of the anti-smoking lobby, so that in the future it can use the 'increase' in under-age smoking as a pretext for demanding more state resources, and more draconian legislation to restrict the liberty of the UK's 15 million adult consumers of tobacco products?

Martin Ball,

Information officer,

Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco,

London SW1.