Hi, I'm Nick. This is my blog. I'm a life-long unschooler living in New York. You can find more about me here.

I help run the Recurse Center (YC'S10).

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Wow. Just, wow.

February 21, 2008

It's hard to list all the things that are terrible about this idea:

A ban on the sale of cigarettes to anyone who does not pay for a government smoking permit has been proposed by Health England, a ministerial advisory board.

The idea is the brainchild of the board's chairman, Julian Le Grand, who is a professor at the London School of Economics and was Tony Blair's senior health adviser. In a paper being studied by Lord Darzi, the health minister appointed to oversee NHS reform, he says many smokers would be helped to break the habit if they had to make a decision whether to "opt in".

The permit might cost as little as £10, but acquiring it could be made difficult if the forms were sufficiently complex, Le Grand said last night.

The people behind this idea are surprisingly aware of (some of) its potential problems. Unfortunately, they don't really see them as problems:

"Breaking the new year's resolution not to smoke would be costly in terms of both money and time ... [This] would probably have a greater impact on poor smokers than on rich ones, hence contributing to a reduction in health inequalities."

Sounds like a great plan to me: Reduce inequality by introducing legislation that is systematically unequal in its effects. How could this go wrong?

The paper, written by Le Grand and Divya Srivastava, an LSE researcher, acknowledges: "Administratively it would require addressing the problem of the existing black markets and smuggling in tobacco; but this should probably be done anyway."

Translation: "Implementing this would make the black markets worse and drive more economic activity underground, causing more danger for all involved, and this will in turn require still greater militarism from our law enforcement and spending even more of the taxpayers' money, but hey, we were going to do that anyway!"

Mark my words: They're coming for our Krispy Kremes next.

(Full article at The Guardian)