Smoking: Should we impose a licence or not?

By: Jennifer Pretty Nov 27, 2012
Smoking licence in Canada

I think by now most of us understand the dangers of smoking cigarettes. I can’t imagine there is someone reading this who has never been made aware of the health effects of smoking. But supposing I am wrong, here’s a rundown of what smokers can hope to gain by continuing to smoke. The list is courtesy of Health Canada.


  • A shortened lifespan by an average of 8 years
  • Breathing problems, shortness of breath
  • Difficulty smelling and tasting food
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Peripheral vascular disease (circulatory problems)
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Chronic upper respiratory infections
  • Myriad cancers
  • Stomach and digestive problems
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Sleep problems
  • Cataracts
  • Thyroid disease (Grave's Disease)

And as a woman, we can add to the list:

  • Cancer of the cervix, uterus and breast
  • Chronic menstrual problems
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Miscarriage

Males can add to the list:

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Low sperm count
  • Cancers of the testicles and prostate

That’s quite a list, isn’t it? The fantastic news is that if you smoke now, the sooner you quit, the sooner you can reverse this incredibly dangerous trend. In fact, smokers who quit can begin seeing some immediate benefits within hours, such as ability to breathe, smell and taste food, and improved sleep. Others come in time and are remarkable.

Canada is considered to be a leader, ranking 4th of 198 nations, in its fight to educate consumers about smoking. This approach must be working because only 17% of Canadians still consider themselves smokers. Depending on one’s personality, one might see this glass as being half empty or half full, but consider this, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), estimates that more than 23% of Americans still smoke cigarettes.

Is Canada Doing Enough?

Some say no. Recently PLOS Medicine published an article arguing that the only logical step in the war on tobacco is to require smokers to obtain a licence, just as those seeking permission to drive or fly. If Canada adopted such a stance, the licence would:

  • Require successful completion of a test that covers the risks of smoking
  • Impose a hefty annual cost (dependent upon quantity of cigarettes smoked)
  • Limit the number of cigarettes one could purchase
  • Be renewed annually

The idea is that making smokers jump through hoops to maintain their habit would be so burdensome they would eventually quit.

The Pros and the Cons

Both advocates and those opposed have weighed in on the debate. These are some of the arguments I have come across:


  • It is estimated that direct costs related to smoking, such as doctor visits and hospitals stays run about $4 to $5 billion a year. We taxpayers foot most of this bill.
  • With a licence come fines for violating it. Hit smokers where it hurts. If they are caught smoking without a licence in hand, fine them $50 or $100. Eventually they’ll either quit or smoke in their own homes.
  • Requiring a licence means that it will deter teenagers from smoking.
  • 2nd hand smoke kills non-smokers. Smokers shouldn’t be allowed to play with non-smokers’ lives.


  • Why not leave the consumer alone and fine the tobacco manufacturers? They’re the ones creating the problem.
  • Why not just ban smoking?
  • It’s Big Brother monitoring people’s moves. Why not impose a licence on eating junk food and drinking liquor?
  • Someone will figure out how to profit off of this. He will get a licence and buy cigarettes for all his buddies and circumvent the system.


What do you think?


Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!


Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!