Smoking bans (or smoke-free laws) are public policies, including criminal laws and occupational safety and health regulations, that prohibit tobacco smoking in workplaces and other public spaces. Legislation may also define smoking as more generally being the carrying or possessing of any lit tobacco product.
- I agree with Mr Wolf that freedom is centrally important. But how should we see the demands of freedom when habit-forming behaviour today restricts the freedom of the same person in the future? Once acquired, the habit of smoking is hard to kick, and it can be asked, with some plausibility, whether youthful smokers have an unqualified right to place their future selves in such bondage.
A similar issue was addressed by the leading apostle of liberty, John Stuart Mill, when he argued against a person’s freedom to sell himself or herself in slavery. […] Another question to ask is: who exactly are the “others” who are affected? Passive smokers are not the only people who might be harmed. If smokers are made ill by their decision to go on smoking, then the society can either take the view that these victims of self-choice have no claim to public resources (such as the National Health Service or social safety nets), or more leniently (and I believe more reasonably) it could accept that these people still qualify to get social help. If the former, we would live in a monstrously unforgiving society; and happily I do not see Britain or France going that way. If the latter, then the interests of “others” would surely be affected through the sharing of the costs of public services.
- Amartya Sen, "Unrestrained smoking is a libertarian half-way house", Financial Times (February 11, 2007)
- I am opposed to any such policy. I am merely pointing out the absurdities of current plans. Harm to others is a necessary justification, for government interference. But it is not sufficient. Intervention should also be both effective and carry costs proportionate to the likely gains. The bans already planned may well not meet these standards. Their proposed extension outdoors would fall vastly short. An extension into the home would be logical, but also intolerable. This is gesture politics at its worst.
- Martin Wolf, "The absurdities of a ban on smoking", Financial Times (June 22, 2006)