Smoking licenses scheme reheated

| August 5, 2013

Australian smokers should be forced to carry a “smartcard license” with which to buy cigarettes so health authorities can track their behavior and better target quit messages to them, according to a story by Julia Medew for The Age, quoting health and legal academics.

In an article published in the Medical Journal of Australia, the University of Sydney Law School’s professor, Roger Magnusson, and the chief executive of the Cancer Institute of NSW, professor David Currow, said a licence scheme could also make it harder for children and adolescents to buy cigarettes.

Building on a similar licensing proposal from anti-smoking crusader and professor Simon Chapman, last year, Magnusson and Currow said adult smokers could be forced to buy a smartcard license embedded with age and identity-verifying information. “Retailers would then be required to reconcile all stock purchased from wholesalers against a digital record of retail sales to licensed smokers,” Medew’s story said. “This would help to create a database of smokers and their cigarette purchases, while also creating an incentive for retailers to comply with laws that prohibit tobacco sales to children.”

While Chapman last year proposed a scheme under which smokers would have had to have sat a pre-license test on the risks of smoking, and would have been subjected to limits on how many cigarettes they could buy, Magnusson and Currow said a simpler system was required.

They said that their proposed smartcards would enable health authorities to detect patterns and variations in smokers’ behavior and to develop more sophisticated, individualized communications to assist them to quit.

They would enable rigorous evaluation of smoking cessation programs, ensuring that public health dollars were focused on evidence-based strategies that yielded the best returns.

Some critics of the scheme say it could exacerbate the stigma attached to smoking through the creation of “registered addicts,” but the opposite is also possible. Referring to licenses as smartcards could make them the next must-have accessories.

Category: Breaking News

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