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Britain May Introduce Permits To Buy Cigarettes

16 Feb, 2008, 0740 hrs IST, PTI – The Economic Times

LONDON: Smokers in Britain may soon need a permit worth 10 pounds to buy cigarettes.

Health England, the government’s health advisory body, has suggested introducing the permit without which no one would be allowed to buy cigarettes.

“The scheme would make a big difference to the number of people giving up smoking,” Chairman of the advisory body Julian Le Grand told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“The cash raised by the proposed scheme would go to the National Health Scheme,” Le Grand, an ex-adviser to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, said.

But smokers’ rights group, Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking (FOREST), described the idea as “outrageous”, given the high prices smokers already pay.

Le Grand said the idea is that inconvenience in getting a permit – as well as the cost – would deter people from persisting with the smoking habit.

“You’ve got to get a form, the government’s good at complex forms; you have got to get a photograph. It’s a little bit of a problem to actually do it, so you have got to make a conscious decision every year to opt in to being a smoker,” he said.

About 70 per cent of smokers actually want to stop smoking. So if you just make it that little bit more difficult for them to actually re-start or even to start in the first place, yes I think it will make a big difference, he added.

A Department of Health spokesperson did not rule out such a scheme as part of the next wave of tobacco regulation.

She said: “We will be consulting later this year on the next steps on tobacco control. Ministers are seeking input from a whole range of stakeholders.”

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