Tobacco regulation: autonomy up in smoke?

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Abstract

Over the past few decades, “Big Tobacco” has spread its tentacles across the developing world with devastating results. The global incidence of smoking has increased exponentially in Africa, Asia and South America and it is leading to an equally rapid increase in the incidence of smoking-induced morbidity and mortality on these continents. The World Health Organization (WHO) has tried to respond to this crisis by devising a set of regulations to limit the spread of smoking, and many countries have bound themselves to follow the WHO’s guidelines. This article provides an overview of these regulatory measures and the authors attempt to defend them from the perspective of liberty and autonomy. Their motivation is to countermand any attempt by the tobacco industry to attack the regulations on the grounds that they infringe the liberty rights of producers and consumers. It is also argued, however, that a blanket ban of the production, sale and consumption of tobacco cannot be justified on the grounds of autonomy alone.

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