Vice Squad
Saturday, February 16, 2008
A Smoking License

There are a couple features of current tobacco regulation that do not satisfy Vice Squad's approach to vice regulation, the notion that rules should work well if everyone is completely rational with respect to their vice-related decisions -- and the rules should work well, too, if lots of folks are addicted or irrational or exhibit self-control shortcomings when dealing with vice. In particular, cigarette taxes in "western" countries (along with, in the US, the Master Tobacco Settlement effective surcharge) are too high (too punitive for rational smokers), and those public smoking bans are too broad (besides creating problems for Vice Squad fetish Bingo). But the idea that a bar or restaurant, or an individual smoker, might have to pay a small amount to acquire a license for smoking privileges -- well, that warms our self-exclusion heart. And no doubt as a Valentine's Day present to Vice Squad, Britain is considering instituting a licensing system in which would-be cigarette smokers would first have to purchase a tobacco-buyer's license, at a fee of 10 pounds for one year. They also want to make the license application form unwieldy to fill out, it seems, but that can go too far; perhaps better would be an easy form, but a three-day waiting period between when you submit the form and when you pick up your license -- with the possibility of cancelling for a full refund at any time during those three days.

Incidentally, between taxes and the exchange rate, cigarettes are too expensive for Americans in the UK.

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