Should Smokers Be Forced To Buy A License?

If I had to describe New York Mayor Bloomberg’s large soda ban in 10 words or less, this is how I’d do it: asinine, ridiculous, insane, laughable, invasive, patriarchal, insane, unnecessary, insane and useless. That being said, what could be worse, or more laughably inane than a discussion about a “smokers license?” The answer is nothing.

According to a local CBS affiliate in Washington DC:

“In this week’s PLOS Medicine medical journal, two leading tobacco control advocates debate the merits of the smoker’s license. Simon Chapman, a professor at the University of Sydney, proposes that users would have to apply and pay for a mandatory license in the form of a smartcard that would be shown when buying cigarettes. Dr. Chapman wrote that it could discourage young people from picking up the habit. In a controversial move, the smartcard would allow the government to limit how many cigarettes a smoker could buy. Professor Chapman suggests 50 per day averaged over two weeks to accommodate heavy smokers. The anti-smoking activist told the Daily Mail that the sale of tobacco is currently subject to trivial controls compared to other dangerous products that threaten both public and personal safety.”

Why is this even being debated? Are our lives so lacking in government intervention that smokers must be observed at all times? Do we want the government deciding how much we can purchase of a personal product?

Chapman’s line of reasoning seems sound at first glance, but upon further review, it’s absurd. He claims that this license will discourage the youth from smoking. That seems sound, because having to provide ID to buy alcohol has really discouraged youth from drinking.

Secondly, he suggests that the number of cigarettes purchased by an individual could be limited by the government. Chapman suggests “50 per day, averaged over two weeks to accommodate heavy smokers.” If that’s the case, why regulate at all? People are still going to smoke, but now this regulation would just give the government more power over the individual than they already possess. In addition to that, the youth will find a way to get cigarettes; they always do.

Smoking is bad for your health; everybody knows that. But so is over-eating, sugary foods, high-fructose corn syrup, alcohol, and not exercising, among many other things. Regulations like these are a misguided attempt at forcing consumers to be healthy; to do what the government wants them to do. Regulations like these are helping to create a nanny-state.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be told by the government how much bacon I can eat per week. That is where we are headed if debates like these turn into action. We live in a society of personal freedoms. I like to call it a society of “survival of the fittest.” People can choose to eat themselves to death, or smoke until their lungs turn black, if that is what they want to do. The last thing we need is a parental government trying to baby the country.

I’ve seen too much to give the government the benefit of the doubt. This isn’t really about consumer health, it’s all about control; all of it. And when a government exercises too much control over a people, it never turns out well. As Neil Gaiman has said: “Human beings do not like being pushed about by gods. They may seem to, on the surface, but somewhere on the inside, underneath it all, they sense it, and they resent it.”