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Halliday's ‘The ethics of a smoking licence’
  1. Simon Chapman
  1. Correspondence to Professor Simon Chapman, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; simon.chapman{at}

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I first raised the idea of a smokers’ licence in a 2005 paper.1 In 20122 and again in an 18 min video in 2014,3 I elaborated on the rationale for it, described the practicalities in careful detail and anticipated potential objections to both the concept and its operation. LeGrande et al outlined far less elaborated models in 20074 and 2009,5 and Magnusson and Currow6 argued for a ‘no frills’ version in 2013, which focused on children not adults. I criticised this for some misconceptions but mainly because children's tobacco consumption represents <0.5% of all tobacco consumed in Australia.7 I argued that a licensing scheme that would fail to reach those consuming >99.5% of all tobacco products would be hardly worth the lobbying effort necessary to see such a proposal argued publicly and eventually legislated.

The 2012 paper2 has received a good deal of attention, with an Altmetric ( score of 193, 34 citations and 21 234 views as at 11 February 2016. Daniel Halliday's contribution8 to the discussion of the ethics of the concept of the smoker's licence is welcome. However, his conceptions contain many problems, which I now highlight.

His paper is organised largely around the curious assumption that a smoker's licence should be considered ‘as a replacement for sales tax on tobacco products’ rather than as an additional component of broad, comprehensive tobacco control policy and practice. The main elements of such policy are well known and set out in the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2003 and now ratified by 180 nations.9 Comprehensive tobacco control consists of public awareness campaigns on the health risks of smoking, taxation designed to reduce consumption, bans on all forms of tobacco advertising and promotion, …

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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