START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
2,193,452 people care about Health Policy

Iceland Considers Selling Cigarettes By Prescription Only

Iceland Considers Selling Cigarettes By Prescription Only

Iceland, in a radical attempt to curb the number of deaths due to smoking-related illnesses, is considering a 10-year plan which would eventually make cigarettes available only with a doctor’s prescription.  The only people who would be able to access cigarettes would be those who were deemed unable to end their cigarette habit.  The plan would also ban smoking in all public places and in cars where children were present.

Ironically, although the plan would begin with tax increases on cigarettes, by the time a decade passed and cigarettes were prescription-only, they would actually be cheaper than ever.  ”Under our plan, smokers who are given prescriptions will be diagnosed as addicts, and we don’t think the government should tax addicts,” explained Thorarinn Gudnason, the president of the Icelandic Society of Cardiology.

He explained that cigarette pricing did not include the heavy cost to society that came with smoking-related illnesses.  ”A packet currently costs around 1,000 krona [around $9], but if you factor in the cost of sick leave, reduced productivity due to smoking breaks and premature retirement on health grounds, it should really be 3,000 krona,” he said.

Nicotine would be treated like other addictive drugs, and cigarettes would be licensed as a medicine.  Although some elements of the plan have been attempted before, with great success (the WHO estimates that every 10% price increase reduces tobacco consumption by 4-6%), but the prescription idea is completely new.  Gudnason says that he sees Iceland as a testing ground for the idea.

One doctor raised the question of whether making cigarettes prescription-only would make a physician an “accomplice to a health hazard decision.”  It’s a fair point – how would doctors be able to balance a patient’s need for cigarettes with the knowledge that prescribing them could lead to a deadly illness down the line?

The Icelandic government says that the plan is serious, but that it’s also unlikely to pass.  Because Iceland already has one of the lowest smoking rates in Europe, after an extremely successful tobacco tax, which cut regular smoking rates in half, it may not be as urgently necessary as in other countries.  It could also be easier for Iceland, because it’s remote and isolated, to enforce a ban on cigarettes, since they would be more difficult to smuggle.

What do you think?  Is it a good idea to raise taxes on tobacco, completely ban smoking in public, or make cigarettes prescription-only?

Read more: , , , , , , ,

Photo from emiemihuimei via flickr.

quick poll

vote now!

Loading poll...

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
3:08AM PST on Dec 16, 2011

Way to go......I bet they are glad they don't have a whole Sate that gave its name to the Tobacco Industry & who have lobbyists to make sure that NOTHING like this COULD EVER HAPPEN IN THE U.S.A. - where Government is controlled by e.g. Philip Morris Inc.

9:45PM PDT on Jul 25, 2011

stupid idea

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

And start getting serious about catching and punishing poachers.

It's nothing but the same old GOP tactic of once again falsely accusing Democrats of the very thing that…

ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!