Health authorities in developed countries, where the most headway against smoking has been made, now talk about playing the “endgame” with tobacco, that is, reducing the percentage of smokers in the overall population, currently about 20 per cent, to 1 or 2 per cent.
1 or 2 per cent is less than the prevalence of frequent illicit drug use in the UK and is considerably less than the prevalence of illicit drug use in the past month. Whatever euphemism you choose to use, it is obvious that the 'endgame' would have to involve prohibition to even attempt a smoking prevalence rate of 1-2%.
Some have suggested the licensing of cigarette smoking as a significant step towards achieving this end result.
Well, Julian Le Grand suggested it back in 2008 but backed down when people quite rightly pointed out that it was incompatible with a free society. Since then, the only person to have seriously mooted it is Simon Chapman, a narcissistic fanatic who is wrong about everything.
In a highly cited article in Plos Medicine (November 2012), Simon Chapman, Sydney University public health academic, outlined the case for a smoker’s licence, whereby smokers would apply for a smart swipe-card licence and retailers could sell cigarettes only to cardholders. Before receiving a licence, smokers would have to pass a test of smoking risk knowledge.
Yes, that's the fellow. He's an idiot.
At this point, our intrepid neo-prohibitionist - one William Reville - embellishes this authoritarian nonsense with further sprinklings of prodnosery...
Three levels of licence would exist, corresponding to different levels of smoking: one to 10 cigarettes per day, 11-20 per day and 21-50 per day. Annual licensing fees of about €100, €150 and €200 respectively would apply to each of the three categories and smokers would precommit to a smoking category. This category could be changed later online or on annual licence renewal.
Because Irish smokers aren't being taxed heavily enough already, obviously.
The licence fee in itself is a disincentive to smoking, but more significantly, smokers who stop smoking and surrender the licence would be refunded, with compound interest, all licence fees paid during their licence history.
As if the government would ever do that in practice.
Licence surrender would be permanent and reapplication not permitted.
Let me get this straight. An adult smoker who chooses to stop smoking and later chooses to start smoking again is PERMANENTLY BANNED from ever buying cigarettes again?
Yes, folks, that is what he is saying.
Tobacco is a dangerous drug. We strictly license the use of all other drugs that are potentially dangerous if improperly used, for example pharmaceuticals. When your GP writes you a prescription to treat your ailment, he/she gives you a temporary licence to purchase a limited supply of pharmaceuticals from a licensed pharmacy. In contrast, tobacco, a drug that kills half of its long-term users, can be purchased by any adult in unlimited quantity in any shop.
Show me someone who's overdosed on a pack of cigarettes and we'll talk. The risks from smoking come from daily consumption of many cigarettes for decades. The difference between acute and chronic risks make any comparison with pharmaceuticals - some of which can be bought over the counter, by the way - invalid.
What about the “slippery slope” objection to a smoking licence? Would it not encourage the “nanny state” to call for a licensing system for alcohol drinkers, consumers of junk food and so on? However, Chapman argues that this slope is less slippery than we fear.
Chapman would argue that a horse in an ox if it furthered his prohibitionist agenda. His claim that there is no slippery slope is shown to be massively and hilariously wrong on an almost daily basis, not only in his native Australia but also in Ireland.
Drastic controls, greater than apply to any other consumer product, have already been introduced to regulate tobacco marketing, packaging and public consumption – cigarette ads are banned across all media, tobacco sponsorship of sport is banned, plain packaging of cigarettes with graphic printed warnings is required, smoke-free zones are widespread – without significant spillover of such controls to other consumer goods, for example alcohol.
Really? Perhaps you could tell this to your Health Committee because they want to see 'the introduction of health warnings on alcohol products "in a similar fashion to tobacco legislation... with an emphasis on visual graphic designs for maximum effect". And then you should tell the state-funded sockpuppet Alcohol Action Ireland because they want the government to 'legislate comprehensively to regulate the promotion of alcohol including a ban on alcohol sponsorship of sport'.
When I first heard the idea of licensing cigarette smokers I dismissed it as a crude Orwellian instrument of state control.
Your first impression was correct.
I am a nonsmoker but I don’t like the state curtailing citizens’ personal freedoms.
Except when it involves banning people from buying cigarettes ever again.
However, the cumulative health effects of smoking are so grave they may well justify this extra step.
All they wanted was non-smoking sections in restaurants, remember?