One health expert has made a radical proposal, which he says would help curb smoking worldwide. Professor Simon Chapman, from the University of Sydney in Australia, says that smokers should be made to apply and pay for a licence. They would have to show it when buying cigarettes - and it would also put a limit on the total number of cigarettes that could be bought.
So would it help curb smoking? And would it ever be introduced?
DangerousChapman was writing in PLOSmedicine.org, and said that the licence would help control the incredible damage caused by smoking. He highlighted that prolonged use of tobacco causes the death of about half of its users, and that a billion people this century will die from smoking.
He said: "In particular, the cigarette is an exceptionally dangerous product: no other commodity or human activity causes a remotely comparable number of annual deaths." He argued that introducing a licence on such a harmful product is not unreasonable.
The proposalHe suggested that: "License application could be made on-line or at authorised tobacconists, with supported data-linkable, proof-of-age cross-referencing (passport, driver's license, birth certificate) required to validate identity." This would effectively create a database of smokers, who could be targeted for cessation advice.
It would make it harder for underage children to smoke. The process of applying for a licence would also help put teenagers off starting in the first place, as they would have to make a conscious decision to become a smoker. They could also be made to sit a test to ensure they understand the risks they are taking.
They could apply for one of three levels of licence - with varying limits on the number of cigarettes purchased. The more cigarettes they want to buy, the higher the licence fee. He suggested that the range ought to be between £60 and £130 a year.
Those who give up smoking could apply for a refund of all their licence fees to date. Chapman argued that it would be a financial deterrent, and would offer an incentive for people to either cut back or give up altogether.
CriticsHowever, the idea has its critics. The publication also featured a response from Professor Jeff Collin from the University of Edinburgh, who argued that it wouldn't work in practice. He said that in the UK, 'The authoritarian connotations' would make it impossible to build support for the idea.
He argued that measures should attack the industry rather than the smoker, and added that the stigma of being a registered smoker would be too high price to pay. He said: "The 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. The proposal for a smoker's license should be rejected as failing this challenge."
But what do you think, should smokers need a licence? Let us know in the comments.