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J Med Ethics. 2016 May;42(5):293-301. doi: 10.1136/medethics-2015-102682. Epub 2015 Nov 17.

The case for banning cigarettes.

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Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, University of Umeå, Umea, Sweden.
Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, UK Institute for Health and Social Policy & Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Canada.


Lifelong smokers lose on average a decade of life vis-à-vis non-smokers. Globally, tobacco causes about 5-6 million deaths annually. One billion tobacco-related deaths are predicted for the 21st century, with about half occurring before the age of 70. In this paper, we consider a complete ban on the sale of cigarettes and find that such a ban, if effective, would be justified. As with many policy decisions, the argument for such a ban requires a weighing of the pros and cons and how they impact on different individuals, both current and future. The weightiest factor supporting a ban, we argue, is the often substantial well-being losses many individuals suffer because of smoking. These harms, moreover, disproportionally affect the disadvantaged. The potential gains in well-being and equality, we argue, outweigh the limits a ban places on individuals' freedom, its failure to respect some individuals' autonomous choice and the likelihood that it may, in individual cases, reduce well-being.


Autonomy; Population Policy; Public Health Ethics; Public Policy

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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