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Commentary
Daniel Halliday, ‘The Ethics of a Smoking License’
  1. David Shein
  1. Correspondence to Dr David Shein, Department of Philosophy, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York 12571, USA; shein{at}bard.edu

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Daniel Halliday1 argues that the most efficient way to reduce cigarette smoking is to implement a smoking licence. Such a system would, he maintains, be more effective than sales taxes because a licence would have a greater cost, which would be more of a disincentive, and a larger up-front cost, which would be a greater disincentive than distributed cost over time. Additionally, insofar as most people start smoking as adolescents, and insofar as adolescents would not be likely to afford a licence, this would have the additional effect of stopping smokers before they begin.

These are economic arguments for an economic policy: they purport to trace the most efficient means to the given end of reducing smoking. Is there also a moral argument? While Halliday says there is, no normative or ethical principle is articulated anywhere in the paper. His argument is grounded in a basic commitment to paternalism generally, and paternalism with regard to adolescents in particular (p3). No defence of paternalism is offered, however; the majority of the paper consists of a series of defences of a licence system against economic and moral objections. In this note, …

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