THW completely ban smoking.
Motion :- THW completely ban smoking.
House :- Western Liberal Democracies.
[Courtesy - Vishakha Wijenayake]
Each and every individual has a right to decide those matters that are most intimately connected one’s well-being, including the duration and quality of one’s life and the circumstances of one’s death. According to this view, the right to smoke, or engage in any kind of self harm stems from a deeper right to self-determination, a right to shape the circumstances of our lives so long as we do not harm or imperil others. The State as an external party lacks sufficient knowledge of an individual’s own chosen structure of values and preferences to make an informed decision to coerce an individual to comply with the values of the Government.
An influence can be categorized as undue only in circumstances where it is deceptive, and where it is aggressive to the extent that it blocks out contradictory sources of information, making it impossible for an individual to come to a rational decision. This is not the case with smoking. There are ample sources of information available to the public educating them on the health risks of smoking. Cigarette companies are bound by law to indicate such health risks on cigarette packets and in advertisements. Hence, it can only be assumed that rational individuals, while being aware of the possible health hazards of smoking, still engage in such activity as they see overarching benefits of doing so.
Each and every individual is the only person who is fully equipped to understand his or her needs. Therefore, as opposed to the State, he or she must be the only person who determines his or her actions. Similarly to a motor car racer or sky diver who assumes great risk in order to self actualize, an individual might choose to smoke because smoking satisfies his or her particular needs. Only the individual can choose what is good and bad for him or her.
If there is no certainty and not even a probability of a bad outcome, the government has no right to say that the individual is not rational enough to assess the risks for himself. Most actions contain an element of harm to self. E.g. Mountain climbing, taking the subway alone at night, watching sport instead of getting some actual exercise. In all of these situations, like in smoking, the individual makes a rational cost benefit analysis accepting the health risk involved.
Smoking does not cause loss of autonomy. An individual does not become instantaneously addicted to any drug. Out of the few who get addicted, many succeed in overcoming such addiction. No drug is so addictive that the individual can never decide to stop using it. The individual is always free to get medical help. An addiction is merely the continuous and voluntary use of a substance until such time as a person wishes to cease. Although the choice might be a harder one to make, it remains clearly within the individual’s power.
Where a state accepts that an individual is incapable of making rational choices, such individual is not held responsible for his or her actions. Not only does the state intervene with paternalistic legislation when it comes to matters relating to children, but also children are not held responsible for their actions as the state assumes that they lack the capacity to make rational choices. Further under criminal justice, people who have been involuntarily intoxicated or who are under duress are not held accountable for their actions as it is recognized that such factors hinder their rationality. However, smokers in general and those who are addicted to smoking are held accountable to their actions as much as any other citizen. Hence, the state impliedly recognizes that smoking or addiction to smoking does not deprive them of their capacity to make rational choices.
Hence, if smoking is beneficial to the individual, and does not affect or violate the interests of others, the burden of proof is on the Government to establish that the State has the prerogative to impose its idea of what a good life is, and its standards of productivity on individuals in ways which limit their liberty. If the understanding of what is good for a person was an empirical issue including elements such as longer life, greater health, more income, or less depression, the State may justify such imposition from a utilitarian stand point. However pleasure to the greater number may depend on more abstract notions such as being respected as an independent agent, having a right to make decisions for oneself, or having one's autonomy not infringed. In such a case, one may not justify banning smoking on consequentialist grounds. This is so as a man's mode of laying out his own existence is best not because it is the best in itself, but because it is his own mode. (J.S. Mill)
Stating that smoking should be banned as it does not have a unique and indispensible value to society is akin to stating that one should ban Justin Beiber as people can listen to Mozart instead. The truth in both these cases is that regardless of how counter intuitive it may seem, to those who consume cigarettes or Justin Beiber’s music, such activity carries some unique and indispensible value that the majority might fail to recognize. Banning such activity would be coercion on the part of the State in imposing its morality on individuals.
Rights are vested in individuals so that their individual autonomy is protected from the State and other individuals, and not to advance a utilitarian agenda of the State. For example, while Freedom of Movement may be granted to individuals to prevent others from unlawfully confining them, such right does not give the State the authority to force individuals to go jogging instead of taking afternoon naps, as this will contribute to the productivity of the workforce.
As for passive smoking and how laws that prevent 3rd party harm is hard to enforce, the inability or the inefficiency of a State to enforce its laws should not be a justification for the said State to assume more powers unto itself and enact laws that are more pervasive and hinder the liberty of individuals.