Smoking licence on the agenda

SMOKERS may soon be forced to carry a licence to smoke in a bid to limit access to cigarettes and encourage quitting.

The radical idea was suggested by University of Sydney Professor Simon Chapman.

Professor Chapman, from the School of Public Health, outlined his idea for a smart card licence in an interactive open-access journal, PLOS One Medicine.

The licence would set smoker's daily limits, as well as give financial incentives for permanent licence surrender and test knowledge of smoking health risks.

When told of the proposal several Fairfield smokers were not impressed.

Saf Patti, who has been smoking for 15 years, said the proposal , if approved, would not deter him from smoking.

"If anything it will increase my ability to smoke. This will backfire 100 per cent. It's very bad, it really is a joke," he said.

"I won't be surprised if they bring out a licence to breathe."

His friend Andy Butros, who has been smoking for 11 years, agreed.

He said there were already laws about smoking in place so there was no need to bring out more.

"It's a free country. People can do what they like so where's the democracy in that?" he said.

"If the government wants to control it, then why don't they shut down the factories that make tobacco?

"How far are they going to go? Soon they'll start bringing out mobile vans and people will have to smoke inside them."

Professor Chapman said the smoker's licence would allow smokers the choice to continue smoking within a regulatory framework.

"It may seem like a radical step toward ending the epidemic of disease caused by tobacco, but it is far less radical than prohibiting the sale of tobacco, which is not a strategy that has yet been supported by any international expert report or political forum," he said.

But Australasian Association of Convenience Stores executive director, Jeff Rogut labelled Professor Chapman's suggestion "insulting".

"The notion that smokers should require a licence to smoke is at odds with the most important concept of consumerism in this country: the right to choose," he said.

"For government to even entertain the thought of such an insulting and discriminatory scheme would be a clear admission that it has no faith in its own plain packaging regulations."

• All smokers would be required to obtain a smart swipecard licence for purchases from a licenced tobacco retailer.

• Most licence registrations would take place online, providing a useful database on tobacco use and a means to communicate health messages to smokers.

• Smokers would pre-commit to a certain number of cigarettes a week.

• The more cigarettes a licencee opted for, the higher the fee. There would be an upper limit of 50 cigarettes per day, averaged across 14 days, and the licence would be renewed annually.

• As an incentive to quit, all licence fees paid during a smoker's licenced smoking history would be fully refundable, with compound interest if they surrendered their licence.

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