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Diminishing personal autonomy unacceptable in a free society

| December 5, 2012

The licensing of smokers, the anti-tobacco movement’s latest proposal to ‘denormalize’ smoking, confirms that public-health elites suffer from Mary Poppins Syndrome: They won’t rest until we’re all practically perfect in every way.

So says the Cato Institute adjunct scholar, Dr. Patrick Basham, in a response to a piece in the journal PLOS Medicine by Simon Chapman PhD FASSA, suggesting that tobacco users should be required to obtain a ‘smoker’s license’ to buy cigarettes. Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney, Australia, envisions a “smart card” system that would allow the government to limit smokers’ cigarette purchases and encourage them to quit.

‘This kind of paternalism assumes (incorrectly) that individuals are uninformed or irrational in their choices, and public-health considerations must take precedence over their liberty,’ Basham writes. ‘Accordingly, the state is obligated to force everyone to conform to the public-health consensus. The rights of otherwise competent adults must be restricted to protect them from their own insufficiently considered actions. So smokers are subjected to real-time experiments designed to change their consumption habits on the grounds that it’s “for their own good”.’

Later, Basham goes on to say: ‘But diminishing personal autonomy under the guise of improving health is still diminishing personal autonomy. As such, it’s unacceptable in a free society.’

Basham’s piece, which was published also in the Philadelphia Inquirer, is available in full at: http://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/license-smoke.

Category: Breaking News

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