Doctors have attacked the government’s National Drug Strategy for failing to tackle drinking and smoking in early life. ‘[The strategy] was set up with crime-reduction on mind – and for that reason it’s designed to tackle illegal drug use only,’ Dr Vasco Fernandes, consultant physician in alcohol and drug addiction, told public health doctors at a British Medical Association conference. Delegates voted for the government to set up accessible addiction services for young people and to focus on smoking prevention. Most drug addicts did not progress straight to heroin or crack cocaine, but began with the ‘gateway drugs’, smoking and drinking – problems which the government was leaving to other agencies, according to Dr Fernandes. ‘If we are serious about preventing addiction to both legal and illegal drugs, we must have better services to tackle these problems among young people, and they must be co-ordinated into the national drug strategy,’ he said. To do otherwise was to spend time ‘locking the door after the horse has well and truly bolted’. The conference called for a review of 24-hour drinking, including public debate. Dr Noel Olsen, chair of the Education and Research Council, acknowledged that health-related problems from alcohol abuse outweighed those from illegal drugs, for the population as a whole.