Article Text

Download PDFPDF

The case for banning cigarettes
  1. Kalle Grill1,
  2. Kristin Voigt2,3
  1. 1Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, University of Umeå, Umea, Sweden
  2. 2Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, UK
  3. 3Institute for Health and Social Policy & Department of Philosophy, McGill University, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Dr Kristin Voigt, Ethox Centre, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, Old Road Campus, Oxford OX3 7LF; kristin.voigt{at}


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
View Full Text

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles

  • Mini-Symposium: Regulating smoking
    Yvette van der Eijk
  • The concise argument
    Dominic Wilkinson