Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/10/23/smoking_licence/
UK gov advisor proposes 'licence to smoke'
Obligatory £200 addict permit
A government advisor has suggested that the problem of Brits continuing to smoke themselves to death might be tackled by requiring nicotine addicts to obtain a £200 annual licence, the Telegraph reports.
Professor Julian le Grand, a "former advisor to Tony Blair" who is a lecturer in social policy at the London School of Economics and "advises ministers through his chairmanship of Health England", made his proposal this week as a Department of Health report said that while "smoking prevalence is falling among both males and females", far too many of us are popping our clogs as a result of coronary disease and other smoking-related ailments.
Accordingly, and since simply raising the price of gaspers has not in the past convinced hardened smokers to quit, le Grand declared that "requiring them to fill in forms, and have photographs taken in order to apply for a permit would prove a more effective deterrent".
The master plan is to issue an initial yearly fag permit, and once up and running, the scheme could be "extended so smokers had to get a doctor's signature that their health was not at 'massive risk' by smoking in order to get a licence".
The good prof did, however, concede there could be a few obstacles to success. First up, he admitted "there could be a problem with an emerging black market where those with permits sold them to those without, and that it could create the impression that as long as one is licensed smoking is not harmful".
Regarding the obligation of doctors to collaborate with the Nanny State™, le Grand noted this "could prove problematic because of the liability risk if the smoker was signed off and then developed cancer or heart disease as a result of the habit".
He added: "A doctor's signature adds to the difficulty of getting a permit and makes people think about the health issues but if requiring a doctor's signature made it virtually impossible to get a permit, that would get in the way.
"We'd need to find some sort of cut off point below which doctor's would sign them off and above which they would not."
The Telegraph notes that le Grand's grand plan has already been "lambasted", although the paper makes no comment on his other proposals: banning food manufacturers from adding salt to products; an exercise hour for all employees during the working day; and free fruit in offices - a three-pronged attack designed to combat a nation of fat, fruit-dodging couch potatoes.
In le Grand's defence, we should add that he told the Telegraph: "There is nothing evil about smoking as long as you are just hurting yourself. We have to try to help people stop smoking without encroaching on people's liberties." ®