Article Text

other Versions

Download PDFPDF
The case for banning cigarettes
  1. Sarah Conly
  1. Correspondence to Dr Sarah Conly, Department of Philosophy, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME 04011, USA; sconly{at}

Statistics from

Voight favours a ban on cigarettes, and I think she is correct to think this is morally permissible. Her justification for the ban is less than clear, however. She writes in her introduction that ‘the argument for a tobacco 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 wellbeing losses individuals suffer because of smoking’. And this is weighty enough, she concludes, to outweigh losses to freedom and autonomous choice. I again agree, but the question is what we can say to someone who does not agree, someone who thinks that the loss to freedom and autonomy outweighs the gain in well-being.

What is the unit of measurement we are using when we weigh well-being versus autonomy? Voight does not say. It is true that some people will have intuitions that accord with Voight's, but many people do not. Many people argue that if people make decisions that result in illness or early death that is their own responsibility, as long as information on the danger is readily available, which it is for cigarettes in many places. They will argue that allowing interventions to save people from bad decisions means we are treating them like children, and treating them as if we who intervene consider ourselves superior in a way that …

View Full Text


  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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
  • Mini-Symposium: Regulating smoking
    Daniel Halliday
  • The concise argument
    Dominic Wilkinson