Examining Tobacco Control Strategies and Aims Through a Social Justice Lens: An Application of Sen's Capability Approach

Public Health Ethics 4 (2):149-159 (2011)
Although the effectiveness of some tobacco programs and policies has been clearly demonstrated in reducing the overall population smoking prevalence, the health benefits are not equally distributed across all socio-economic classes; a situation that clearly runs against the equalitarian ethos of most modern states. In this article, we evaluate the benefits of using Sen’s Capability Approach as a theory of social justice to guide public health program and policy development in a way that would prevent the further increase of inequalities in health outcomes. Starting from four consensual goals of tobacco control practice (i.e. that individuals live a smoke-free life, that smokers quit smoking, that non-smokers are protected from exposure to second-hand smoke and that smoking cessation support is accessible) we found that besides the standard interventions (e.g. education on the harms of smoking, policies to reduce exposure to SHS) an iniquity-proof tobacco control program needs also to address the lack of options of underprivileged people in affordable smoke-free settings and in leisure activities. We conclude that an ethical tobacco prevention program needs to address the broader social determinants of health such as the socio-economic policies that put a strain on people’s capacity to shun or quit smoking
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