License to Smoke?

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Nannystaters are endlessly creative in figuring out ways to intervene in other people's lives–for their own good, of course. Now comes a wonderful proposal from Health England in which people wanting to buy tobacco products would first have to be licensed. As the Guardian reports:

The idea is the brainchild of the board's chairman, Julian Le Grand, who is a professor at the London School of Economics and was Tony Blair's senior health adviser. In a paper being studied by Lord Darzi, the health minister appointed to oversee NHS reform, he says many smokers would be helped to break the habit if they had to make a decision whether to "opt in".

The permit might cost as little as £10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

His paper says: "Suppose every individual who wanted to buy tobacco had to purchase a permit. And suppose further 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."

Le Grand said the proposal was an example of "libertarian paternalism". The government would leave people free to make their own decisions but it would "nudge them" in the right direction.

Libertarian paternalism, puhleeze! Coming soon: A license to enter a McDonalds.

Hat tip to H. Clay

NEXT: McCain Has His Cake and Eats It, Too

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  1. What do you suppose the markup on a pack of black market cigarettes would be? It’s like they’re not even trying.

  2. Does it seem like they watched the film Brazil and thought “hey, now that’s a great organizational model”?

  3. I was thinking about a black market also.

    If they make it difficult enough, will drug smugglers start smuggling Marlboro’s instead?

  4. Is that like fascist freedom? Socialist laissez-faire?

  5. Is Great Britain becoming a parody of itself?

  6. If they make it difficult enough, will drug smugglers start smuggling Marlboro’s instead?

    Start?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23384-2004Jun7.html

  7. The permit might cost as little as ?10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

    I guess they’re using the poll tax as a model.

  8. they should make the licensing fee progressive… you know, so as to be fair.

  9. As a black marketeer, I’m in favor of all such measures. Keep up the good work Le Grand! And if your sense of moral superiority ever falters, I have a slush fund set aside for kick backs and payoffs, and I’m not alone. We (meaning me and you) can all be winners!

    Cheers,

  10. Smokers already spend thousands a year and who knows how much time consuming ciggies. Will this really enough to the burden to make people quit (I’m not suggesting that it should)? But it will express “society’s disapproval of the addict” so I suppose that’s enough of a basis for public policy.

  11. Julian Le Grand, who is a professor at the London School of Economics and was Tony Blair’s senior health adviser.

    Right, because the two professions go hand-in-hand. What f… these governments just make this shit up as they go. Hey, you there? Wanna be my senior health adviser?

    If they make it difficult enough, will drug smugglers start smuggling Marlboro’s instead?

    Lurker Kurt: The War on Tobacco is part of the War on Drugs.

  12. Anybody read Sunstein’s “Libertarian Paternalism is Not an Oxymoron”? Actually not that bad.

    Available here:
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=405940

  13. By the way, already reported long ago on H&R by someone who forgot to finish her name in the post

    https://www.reason.com/blog/show/124997.html#915795

  14. Next up: a Big Mac license.

    These people are the very definition of well-meaning fascists. Your body is technically your own but it must be used in furtherance of the state.

  15. Coming soon: A license to enter a McDonalds.

    Fer chrissakes, Bailey, shhhhhhh.

    During the tobacco lawsuits of the nineties, we all said “what’s next, fatty foods”?

  16. The permit might cost as little as ?10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

    I think this is the first time I’ve seen a politician actually admit that paperwork’s sole purpose it to make something harder to accomplish.

    Since pulling permits in Dade and Broward Counties is part of my job, fuck you guy!

    So will bobbies start asking smokers on the street to see their papers? Probably not, I guess, since I’ll wager smoking on the street is illegal too.

  17. I remember Bill Mahr joking that the next step would be that the clerk will have to slap you on the face every time you buy a pack. Is this really different in spirit?

  18. I know a couple who drives all the way to Vermont just to buy cigarettes cheaper. I don’t think a small license fee and paperwork is going to stop them. Children under 18 can’t legally smoke but they seem to get away with it just fine, same as drinking. Laws don’t stop people, they just make us more creative.

  19. How about the licsence makes you exempt from all tobacco taxes?

  20. On the other hand… if the licensing procedure was about restricting politicians breeding… hmmm…

    Just so stupid people having kids was an “opt-in” situation, of course. Call it libertarian eugenics.

  21. “Smokers already spend thousands a year and who knows how much time consuming ciggies. Will this really [add] enough to the burden to make people quit…?”

    No, but it might help people who want to quit. A smoker who wants to quit could throw away his license, which would make it harder for him to later buy a pack of smokes in a moment of weakness. Think of it as a way for quitters to force a cooling-off period on themselves.

    It’s a way to help addicts fight their addictions without forcing other smokers to stop smoking against their will. I wish more vice regulation was like this instead of out-and-out prohibition.

  22. Start?

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23384-2004Jun7.html

    I’m aware of cigarette smuggling in the US. I was referring to smuggling into the UK.

  23. The permit might cost as little as ?10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

    If it’s a government form, being “sufficiently complex” should not be a problem.

    Can a form for soft drink consumers be far behind?

  24. Right, because the two professions go hand-in-hand. What f… these governments just make this shit up as they go. Hey, you there? Wanna be my senior health adviser?

    I’m sure glad that kind of crap doesn’t happen on this side of the pond. Can you imagine something like “Hey, you used to run dog and pony shows, want to be in charge of FEMA?”

  25. Scariest thing to me is that his guy is a Professor, which i would assume means he teaches people.

    we are doomed

  26. forgot to preview.

    *this
    *I

  27. There has been cigarette smuggling in the UK for a long time. Their taxes have been (not sure what the situation is now) much higher on tobacco than most of the rest of Europe, so people were always bringing in loads of smokes from Spain.

  28. I’m sure glad that kind of crap doesn’t happen on this side of the pond. Can you imagine something like “Hey, you used to run dog and pony shows, want to be in charge of FEMA?”

    Or:

    “Hey, you used to take bribes from New Jersey contractors, want to be in charge of the Homeland Security Department?”

  29. I have a plan to reduce useless legislation like this. First every time a politician sponsers a billl, his or her name will be placed into a lottery pool — the more bills, the more entries. Second, every time a bill is passed, a lottery occurs — the person whose name is drawn is executed on the spot.

  30. It’s a way to help addicts fight their addictions

    So that’s what government is all about!
    I eat way too much ice cream. Maybe they could do something about that?
    It probably wouldn’t happen. Ben and Jerry would just hire a pretty blonde lobbyist to sleep with President McCain and he would veto it.

  31. The money raised would go to the NHS.”

    And the true motive of the State goes to…

  32. “The money raised would go to the NHS.”

    Don’t get me started. People in Michigan, allegedly intelligent people, still believe that lottery money “goes to education”.

    Money is fungible, dumbasses. Present company excepted from this rant. Nobody who posts here would be dumb enough to swallow that nonsense.

  33. When the Brits banned guns, we said, “Other freedoms will follow.” Did anyone listen? Nooooo.

  34. Le Grand said the proposal was an example of “libertarian paternalism”.

    What, exactly, is libertarian about this?

    Seriously, what’s the argument that this promotes individual freedom?

  35. I find this unsurprising coming from a nation that keeps the population under relentless surveillance, licenses their televisions, and denies them the basic right of self-defense.

  36. Seriously, what’s the argument that this promotes individual freedom?

    Freedom from the necessity of making your own choices?

  37. Sheesh, after this how long would it be before the UK starts rounding up the smokers and marching them off to mandatory health camps?

  38. So, they expect budding teenage ruffians to wait until they are 18 to apply for a license to rebel? What could possibly go wrong with that plan.

  39. Explain to me again why it is wrong to think that people like this need to be strung up by their necks?

  40. I have a better idea. How about raising the cigarette tax (which should have the same effect), then using that money to buy fireworks, then throwing those fireworks in a river. I didn’t say it was a good idea, just a better one than trying to deter people from smoking cigarettes by requiring them to deal with an expensive new bureaucracy that’s deliberately overly complicated. Nothing improves a policy like adding more useless but nearly impossible to get rid of government jobs.

  41. Explain to me again why it is wrong to think that people like this need to be strung up by their necks?

    Because that would be more merciful than they deserve.

  42. It’s a tax increase with deliberately unnecessary paperwork. And they pay people to think up stuff like this?

  43. MILTON! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
    England hath need of thee: she is a fen
    Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
    Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
    Have forfeited their ancient English dower 5
    Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
    O raise us up, return to us again,
    And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power!
    Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart;
    Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea: 10
    Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
    So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
    In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
    The lowliest duties on herself did lay.

  44. IT is not to be thought of that the Flood
    Of British freedom, which, to the open sea
    Of the world’s praise, from dark antiquity
    Hath flowed, “with pomp of waters, unwithstood,”
    Roused though it be full often to a mood
    Which spurns the check of salutary bands,
    That this most famous Stream in bogs and sands
    Should perish; and to evil and to good
    Be lost for ever. In our halls is hung
    Armoury of the invincible Knights of old: 10
    We must be free or die, who speak the tongue
    That Shakspeare spake; the faith and morals hold
    Which Milton held.–In everything we are sprung
    Of Earth’s first blood, have titles manifold.

  45. What, exactly, is libertarian about this? Seriously, what’s the argument that this promotes individual freedom?

    I haven’t read the proposal but I presume the argument is *supposed to go* something like the following. (Based on the “Libertarian Paternalism” article cited above.) In certain situations the law cannot avoid choosing a “default” position. One has the freedom to specify in contract whether the car one is selling runs or doesn’t run. Where the contract states nothing, the law has to decide on a default rule–it has to presume either that when one sells a car and doesn’t say anything, what is meant is a car that runs or just a hunk of metal. “Libertarian paternalism” would have the legal system set the default rule according to what is best for people. Perhaps protecting stupid buyers, that would be to presume as a default matter that cars run. The idiots at LSE are trying to apply the same logic to the context of smoking.

  46. Nevermind, bad example. A better one is one mentioned in the article: choosing opt-in or opt-out. An employer has to choose whether as a default matter an employee is presumed in a health care plan but can opt out; or presumed out of the health care plan but can opt in. The employer must choose (as a matter of antecedent legal obligation), so it ought to choose (the “libertarian paternalist” logic goes) not according to what employees would hypothetically prefer (market-mimicking), but rather according to what’s best for the employees (paternalism). The idea is that it’s still libertarian because employee retains choice. What is perverse about the attempt at applying the logic here is that the proponents are assuming the state has some kind of antecedent obligation to decide whether we are presumed to be non-smokers who can opt in to smoking (by getting a license) or smokers who can opt out of smoking (by not smoking). Needless to say, the state not only has no such obligation, but no such right. We ought to be presumed free.

  47. Make a license to smoke dope and you’ve got something.

  48. Or a liscence to reproduce perhaps? A liscence to write a blog? A liscence to have sex?

  49. …people having kids was an “opt-in” situation…

    Call me crazy, but…isn’t it already?

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