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article imageA license to smoke – Professors debate smartcards for smokers

By Andrew Moran     Nov 15, 2012 in Science
Sydney - Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney's School of Public Health recently published a paper that smokers should purchase pre-paid smartcards in order to smoke cigarettes, which would help the government gather data for anti-smoking campaigns.
We all understand how bad smoking a cigarette is for your health, but should there be a license to undertake such a habit? One professor is calling for such measures in order to combat the millions of deaths attributed to smoking across the globe.
The paper published in PLoS Medicine makes the case of introducing a government-controlled “smoker’s license” that would need to be swiped every time the individual purchases a package of cigarettes. The government would put in place a limit and once they reach that number they will be cut off.
Chapman recommends implementing three grades of licenses: 70 per week, 140 per week or 350 per week. The higher the limit number means the higher the cost of the smart-card. Each license would have to be renewed each year. For example, a card for the lowest level (one to 10 cigarettes per day) would be priced at $100 per year and the highest (350 per week) would be $200. The total amounts can be paid in full or in quarterly increments.
The purpose of such a card is not only to deter smokers, but also allow the government to obtain pertinent data, such as smokers’ behaviours and monitor national, regional and local tobacco purchases, which would assist in future anti-smoking campaigns and public policy planning. Essentially, there would be a database of all smokers.
“Tobacco continues to kill millions of people around the world each year and its use is increasing in some countries, which makes the need for new, creative, and radical efforts to achieve the tobacco control endgame vitally important,” wrote the PLoS Medicine.
“Chapman sets out a case for introducing a smart card license for smokers designed to limit access to tobacco products and encourage cessation. Key elements of the smoker's license include smokers setting daily limits, financial incentives for permanent license surrender, and a test of health risk knowledge for commencing smokers.”
Since the paper was published, there have been arguments put forth that make the case against instituting such an initiative. Some of the arguments include regulating the industry rather than the smokers, the administrative costs would skyrocket, it would lead to licenses for drinking alcohol or eating junk food and the formation of a black market.
“A fundamental challenge confronting any endgame strategy is that the move towards a tobacco-free society should address the social determinants of health and promote equity and social justice," wrote Jeff Collin, a professor of global health policy from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, in the same publication. "The proposal for a smoker's license should be rejected as failing this challenge."
According to the International Business Times, others have also been opposed to such a drastic move, including the advocacy group Quit and the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores.
More about License, Smoking, plos medicine, Simon Chapman, University of Sydney's School of Public Health
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