David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Public Health Ethics 3 (2):91-106 (2010)
Smoking is disproportionately common among the disadvantaged, both within many countries and globally; the burden associated with smoking is, therefore, borne to a great extent by the disadvantaged. In this paper, I argue that this should be regarded as a problem of social justice. Even though smokers do, in a sense, ‘choose’ to smoke, the extent to which these choices can legitimise the resulting inequalities is limited by the unequal circumstances in which they are made. An analysis of the empirical literature reveals a variety of factors—such as targeted advertising, unequal dissemination of information about the health risks of smoking and inequalities in smoking norms—that make the disadvantaged more likely to become smokers and less likely to quit successfully. The paper then considers a range of common tobacco control policies from the perspective of social justice. The social justice perspective developed here poses a challenge for policy-makers: on the one hand, social justice concerns strengthen the case for tobacco control policies because such policies disproportionately benefit the health of the disadvantaged. At the same time, however, we must be particularly sensitive to any harms associated with such policies because such burdens, too, will fall largely on the disadvantaged
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