The ageing population and new technology are both increasing the cost of our free health service, and there are sound economic reasons for extending measures which reduce the diseases common to our society. But if education fails to change public attitudes towards habits such as tobacco smoking and poor diet, to what extent is the State justified in compelling us to be healthy? This issue touches on the sensitive areas of personal freedom and responsibility and involves complex cultural, historical and economic considerations. Both governments and individuals can be criticised for the way this issue has been handled in the past, and it is hoped that the examples discussed in this paper will stimulate further debate.
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