New Study Proposes ‘Smoking Licence’ to Discourage the Habit

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By Erik Pineda | November 15, 2012 5:19 PM EST

As if the federal government's anti-smoking policies were insufficient, an Australian professor floated the idea that cigarette smokers need to secure a license to get on with their habits, considered a serious health hazard by medical doctors.

The logic behind his proposal, Prof Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney said, was for national authorities to effectively curb the incidence of smoking, which health experts said lead to medical conditions that kill about 50 per cent of persons hooked with tobacco products.

"It's crazy to think we should continue to allow cigarettes, which kill one in two of their users, to be sold just anywhere to anyone," Mr Chapman wrote in his report that online journal PLoS Medicine ran earlier this week.

Under the plan by Mr Chapman, smokers aged 18 and above need to seek clearance from the government before they can legally light a stick. Applicants are to be oriented on the perils of smoking prior to getting a licence, which when approved allows a smart card holder to consume a maximum of 50 sticks a day.

The threshold can be adjusted for additional fees and card holders who decide to kick the habit can return the licence and apply for a refund, Mr Chapman said.

What he has in mind, he added, was to make it difficult for smokers to overconsume cigarette products and for would-be smokers to pick up a stick, essentially equating every tobacco stick to prescription drugs.

This 'smoking license' will be governed by a compulsory screening from authorities, much in the same manner that applicants of drivers' licence were being filtered, Mr Chapman explained in his report.

Should states and national governments decide to adopt his scheme, more people would get the understanding that tobacco products are not in the category of commodities they normally consume, he added.

But a separate study contradicts the very design of Mr Chapman's proposal.

University of Edinburgh professor Jeff Collin called the measures contained in the report as too sweeping, which would create the impression that smoking license holders are deviant or marginalised.

Apart from carrying the likely stigma of being a 'registered addict', the proposal would "inevitably be widely perceived as demeaning, onerous and punitive," Mr Collin said.

The plan being pushed by Mr Chapman did not sit well too with advocacy group Quit, its executive director, Fiona Sharkle, telling The Herald Sun that they are opposed to the notion of requiring licence for smokers.

Also, the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores viewed Mr Chapman's plan as "just another bureaucratic nightmare that will just not work."

"Either ban the products outright, which would just increase the illegal tobacco, or let people make their own free choices," the group Executive Director Jeff Rogut told The Herald Sun on Thursday.

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