Response to Simon Clark of campaign group Forest after he argued in favour of freedom to smoke and against government bullying on BBC radio 4 You and Yours 25.8.2008
You seem to be saying that choosing to smoke is a solipsistic, subjective, rational decision and that any form of government coercion is an infringement of liberty. People smoke for a lot of reasons, but one of the most significant (at least for my patients) is that (like alcohol and junk food) it is a potent stress reliever. Since deprivation leads to stress and cigarettes and cheap booze are the most easily available, culturally familiar stress relievers in deprived areas, don’t you think that deprivation amounts to a coercion to smoke?August 25, 2009 at 16:31 | Jonathon Tomlinson
Perhaps Jonathan. But in that case, the deprivation should be tackled to restrict new entrants to smoking.Bullying those who choose not to quit is exactly that, coercion and bullying.August 25, 2009 at 16:39 | Dick Puddlecote
Whilst I share your libertarian principles, and despair of state bullying of individuals, my concern is that it takes a lot of confidence, knowledge, and money to be sufficiently autonomous to freely choose to do risky things. I believe we need different standards for someone choosing to sell a kidney, another standard for someone choosing to take ecstacy and another for smoking and so on. The world is packed full of coercive forces, governements certainly don’t have a monopoly. By reducing coercive forces (not merely governmental) we can increase automony and the freedoms associated. It would require a massive cultural shift.
Tackling coercion, as you suggest, doen’t restrict new entrants to smoking, it leads to greater autonomy, so that people may still choose to smoke, they just do so with less social coercion. Until we’re all equally free and autonomous (impossible except in an anarchist utopia), freedom to choose will lead to a widening of inequalities which will result in increasing government interference in order to reign in the bad habits of the deprived.
- Who Cares about the White Working Class? edited by Kjartan Páll Sveinsson in the London Review of Books
Pingback: DH consultation on greater choice and control: a sham. | Abetternhs's Blog
Pingback: Consultation or charade..? « Launchpad: By and for mental health service users