Anti-tobacco group examines ‘smoker’s licence’

A suggested smoker’s licence could find people obligated to have a test and pay a charge before they are permitted to buy cigarettes.

The licence, suggested by Sydney University professor of public health Simon Chapman, would demand people to have an online ‘risk knowledge’ test to ensure that they know the risks of what they are about to do, as well as giving a yearly fee to keep the licence.

Smoking lady

Woman holding a burning cigarette in the hand

Licence keepers would have a card which must be shown or scanned whenever they needed to buy cigarettes or tobacco.

Action on Smoking Health director Ben Youdan says that the suggestion is one alternative which could support reach the New Zealand Government’s aim of becoming a tobacco-free country by 2025.

He says there is a need for people to be discovering methods to help smokers give up.

Mr Youdan says tobacco should be considered as the dangerous as it is and accepts the idea of the danger knowledge test.

He as well appreciates the concept that the system would provide people’s yearly fee money back to them once they have given up their licence.

But just the concept of obtaining the licence may also be a motivation to quit smoking.

But he thinks there are numerous potential difficulties to this concept, one being that it would take a lot of bureaucracy, money and time to get it in place.

His main concern though is that it places the burden of responsibility on the smoker, rather than the cigarette giants.

“It is necessary to be quite careful about things which shift the burden of responsibility and blame from the cigarette makers.”

He would choose an option which demanded not just smokers to have licences, but everyone related to getting tobacco to the market – the farmers, the importers, the wholesalers and the sellers.

British American Tobacco New Zealand (BATNZ) spokeswoman Susan Jones says that the firm powerfully is against Mr Chapman’s concept of a smoker’s licence, saying it would “stigmatise and discriminate against smokers”.

“It is an insult to ask knowledgeable people who have chosen to smoke to take a test before they can get a licence.

“There is general awareness of cigarette health warning labels in New Zealand so Professor Chapman’s idea that smokers would have to have a licensing test has no practical goal.”

She says BATNZ also concerns about the adverse effect licensing could have on travelers who wouldn’t be able to purchase cigarettes, and on convenience store owners whose income depends on the number of customers.

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