Licensed to Smoke

There’s an idea going around that if people wish to purchase tobacco they will need a licence. How it works, a person wanting to buy tobacco 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. It is expected that there will be an annual licensing fee.

Some proponents envisage there would be three levels of tobacco licences. Level One licences allows the consumer to purchase between 1 and 10 cigarettes per day. A Level Two licence would allow the consumer to purchase between 11-20 cigarettes per day. A Level Three licence would allow the consumer to purchase between 21 and 50 cigarettes per day.

The cost of your annual licence fee would be subject to your level of licence. For example Level One would cost $100/per year, Level Two $150/ per year and Level Three $200 per year.

There are major implications regarding what this would mean. There would be huge benefits and major risks. There are human rights issues involved, political consequences and litigation hazards.

However, let’s just say we did that, what would be the benefits?

  • Smokers would be motivated to smoke less thereby purchasing a lower level licence
  • If smokers had lower level licences they would often be forced to stick to their allowance
  • In terms of analytics we could get a better understanding of who our smokers are, how much they smoke and where they live. In terms of data, it could be the most valuable information the health sector could ever hope to have.

What are the risks?

  • Licences may become a badge of honour amongst young people, much like a drivers licence
  • Adds to fuelling black markets

This idea may actually be more realistic than the smokefree generation concept. There are untold examples of people needing licences to purchase potentially dangerous goods. Firearms, dangerous chemicals and pharmaceuticals. What do you think whānau?