Ethical and Legal Analyses of Policy Prohibiting Tobacco Smoking in Enclosed Public Spaces

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Abstract

A spate of legislations prohibiting cigarette smoking in enclosed public spaces, mainly on grounds of public health protection, recently swept across cities around the world. This is in tandem with a raft of increasingly restrictive national laws that emerged on the back of the ratification of the WHO Framework for Tobacco Control by more than one 168 countries in 2005. The central debate on the increasingly restrictive tobacco laws revolves on the extent to which public health interests justification should ground political intervention in a private right as basic as tobacco smoking, which interestingly is often lumped in the food and beverage category. The pertinent legal and ethical questions therefore are the following: Is or should there be a general unrestricted right to tobacco smoking? If there were such a right, should public health or ethical considerations trump private right to smoke in enclosed public spaces? And if public health interests were so paramount, should they go farther and ground tobacco smoking proscription in all private and public spheres? Using ethical principles and rights-based arguments, the paper critically examines the legal and ethical ramifications of public health justification for tobacco smoking proscription in enclosed public spaces.

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