Health for England, an advisory body to the government, is proposing to charge people £10 for a licence to buy tobacco. They want the process to be as complex and inconvenient as possible - a long form to fill in, a photograph, and a requirement to renew annually. Chairman Julian Le Grand said: "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."
Obviously, this is a proposal that's been floated by an interest group, and has a long way to go before becoming actual policy. But ominously, when asked about the proposals by the BBC, the Department of Health refused to rule it out.
This is all starting to get silly. First, a blanket ban on smoking, covering not only pubs (which non-smokers frequent), but establishments like shisha bars (which they generally don't). Now, a proposal which aims to make buying cigarettes as difficult and complicated as possible.
I really resent this nannying attitude that tries to use legislation to save people from themselves. Lib Dems supported the blanket smoking ban on the basis of the Harm Principle, and that's all very well - but the anti-smoking lobby doesn't really care about the Harm Principle. The main objective doesn't seem to be protecting non-smokers from other people's noxious fumes, but rescuing mature, adult smokers from their own lifestyle choices. When the ban was first debated, one of the most frequent arguments in support was that, by making it harder for smokers to light up, more people would be tempted to give up.
It would have been quite easy to cut down drastically on passive smoking without going as far as a full ban. Compulsory separate smoking rooms with extractor fans, a ban on smoking at the bar - that would easily have done the trick. And whichever way you spin it, shisha bars should always have had an exemption; they exist solely for the purpose of smoking! The sheer uncompromising nature of the legislation makes me very sceptical about the true motives of ban-supporters.
I quite like the idea that I can go into a pub and take in a lungful of clean, unpolluted air. But I also quite like the idea that, if I really am dead set on buying a pack of smokes to use privately, nobody can stop me. I hope it stays that way.