September 19, 2017
by Guillaume Périgois

France: €20 ‘licence to smoke’ proposed

Because extra-taxation, less freedom, more red-tape and discrimination against the poor and the elderly is what France really needs.


Some tobacco control ideas sound quite relevant – if you live in Orwell’s 1984.

Here is one, penned on September 11th, 2017 by Julien Damon who is a sociologist, an associate professor at Sciences Po and a columnist for the French magazine Le Point: the smoking permit.

This is not a policy proposal from the French government, don’t get me wrong. But informing about, offering early responses to new anti-smokers ideas and defending the smokers’ and tolerant non-smokers’ interests is the raison d’être of Forest EU.

Now, back to the article.

According to Mr Damon, every smoker should acquire a permit, renewable annually, which would be mandatory to buy cigarettes and consume them in the public space.

The permit could consist of a smart card that registers purchases and may even limit them to 40 cigarettes per day or their equivalent in rolling tobacco, or e-cigarettes liquid. The allocation of the permit would be prohibited to minors and would follow a mandatory medical examination, which would be paid for by the smokers and non-refundable. A few fines would also supplement the revenues associated with this licence without points. At 10 or €20 per permit, the few hundred million euros collected would be directly allocated to the social security budget.

In a less Orwellian version, the licence wouldn’t cap tobacco consumption. It would simply be an authorisation to buy and consume tobacco on the streets. What is the real advantage? It is a way of getting everyone to think, evaluate and decide for themselves when, in this case, the majority of smokers say they want to quit. Without real constraints, the ambition here is to help people help themselves.

“It’s not exactly science fiction,” explains Julien Darmon,”the idea has already been discussed very seriously in the United Kingdom, with a permit reserved for adults and sold £10. And it’s no dumber than a tax increase,” the author argues.

Now let’s be clear.

The idea of a licence to smoke is outrageous, given how much taxes smokers already pay. On top of all the taxes every citizens do pay, smokers already have to pay a 80% tax on their smoking tobacco products. The licence to smoke would just be an extra form of taxation, while tobacco taxation is already at record levels.

Just imagine what the police enforcement of this licence would require and what the cost of the administration related to this new permit would be.

The people who would be the most affected by this horrible proposal would be the elderly and the people on low incomes.

It is quite concerning to read a professor at a leading public policy school advocate for a new discriminatory rule that would be adding to the red tape and bureaucracy France already has.

But it is his bragging about the way he would make the opt-in process as complex as possible that is staggering.

Your view:  What do you make of this trend for editorialists to casually suggest Orwellian policy proposals targeted at minorities? Or do you think this licence to smoke is a jolly good start and you’d like regulation to go even further? Let me know on Twitter or at gp@forestonline.eu

Featured image: “simplicity#34 (watching) by Namelas Frade is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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About Forest EU

Since 1979, Forest has been the leading voice in defending the rights of tobacco consumers and tolerant non-smokers. As an advocacy campaign, Forest EU informs consumers about issues that affect them in the European Union and engages with stakeholders so the views of informed adults are taken into account within the EU’s decision-making process. Forest EU doesn’t encourage smoking, accepts there are serious health risks associated with smoking tobacco and represents the consumer, not the tobacco industry. For more information, visit http://forestonline.eu/.

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