The case for a smokers' licence.21 May 2012
The history of tobacco control has seen the introduction of policies initially considered radical, but which rapidly came to be considered normal and essential to the goals of reducing use and the burden of disease that tobacco causes. No other consumer product is subject to total advertising bans. None are required to be sold in plain packaging, as will be the case in Australia from December 2012. Again uniquely, 47 nations now require large graphic warnings on tobacco packaging. Smokefree public transport, workplaces, restaurants, bars, and stadiums are now the rule rather than the exception in an increasingly large number of nations. The legally binding World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control which requires such measures has been ratified by 174 nations. Despite these developments, the sale of tobacco and cigarettes is subject to trivial controls compared with other dangerous products that threaten either public or personal health or safety. In this paper, I outline a proposal for a major new development with potential to reduce tobacco use: the smokers’ license, and consider its likely benefits and the main objections.