Friday, February 15, 2008

Licenced to Inhale

A Pigouvian tax sneaking its nose into the tent in Britain:
Smokers could be forced to pay for a Government tobacco licence in order to carry on buying cigarettes under draconian proposals being considered by ministers.

....Under the plans, anyone who refused to pay for a permit would be banned from buying cigarettes from any outlet.

Although a licence could cost as little as £10 a year, forms would be made deliberately complex to deter people from applying.

Smokers could also be forced to obtain a doctor's signature, declaring their health was not at "massive risk" from their habit.

The scheme is the brainchild of Julian Le Grand, a professor at the London School of Economics, who heads the ministerial advisory board, Health England.

....In a paper written for health minister Lord Darzi, Professor Le Grand writes: "Suppose every individual who wanted to buy tobacco had to purchase a permit.

"And suppose further that they had to do this every year. To get a permit would involve filling out a form and supplying a photograph, as well as paying the fee.

"Permits would only be issued to those over 18 and evidence of age would have to be provided. The money raised would go to the NHS."

....Simon Clark, of smokers' rights group Forest, said the smoking permit proposal was outrageous.

"We are becoming not just a nanny state but a bully state," he said.

...."There are a whole host of things out there that are potentially dangerous. If smokers are targeted in this way, it's a very short step to slapping a similar charge on anyone who wants to buy alcohol or any other product ministers don"t approve of."

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