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Double standards and arguments for tobacco regulation

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  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • i In the EU, see Directive 2003/33/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 May 2003 on the approximation of the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to the advertising and sponsorship of tobacco products. The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is a treaty that has been ratified by 180 countries. In a later section, I note that I am in agreement with WHO's call for drug decriminalization. In both cases, I do not doubt WHO's claims about whether a policy would promote public health. But in this case, I argue that public health is not a sufficient reason for restrictions on speech.

  • ii Another notable exception is pharmaceutical advertising, which is regulated in part by the US Food and Drug Administration, which prohibits manufacturers from advertising truthful information about the off-label uses of drugs.

  • iii Grill and Voigt write, “We assume that such a ban would be effective. In the real world, of course, any all-things-considered judgment must be informed by an assessment of a ban's likely effectiveness in different contexts, with due consideration of problems such as smuggled cigarettes and black markets.” Yet Grill and Voigt are focused on ‘the fundamental normative issues’ surrounding a cigarette ban.3

  • iv This argument does not rule out a middle ground approach. One may reply that coercive paternalism could be justified by the same standards that would justify a less coercive tobacco policy. Though I have argued elsewhere that coercive public health paternalism is generally unjustified,15 my arguments in this essay do not rule out the possibility that some coercive tobacco policies could be justified as long as they were held to the same standards as other policies. In any case, such policies would not include the policies that I have discussed so far.

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