Public Health Ethics 7 (1):35-46 (2014)
AbstractThere is evidence to the effect that exposing children to alcohol consumption in the media increases the chances that they will consume alcohol as minors or as adults, and since alcohol consumption is associated with numerous public health issues, calls for stricter regulation can be heard from many quarters. This article argues that with the available research we cannot conclude that exposure to portrayals of alcohol consumption plays a genuine causal role in bringing about the things with which it is associated, that the strength of the correlation is too weak to justify regulation and that the sorts of things with which it is associated only rarely count as genuine harms from a liberal point of view. This article also argues that even if genuine harms were caused, no justification for regulation would directly follow because alcohol in the media could still be protected by freedom of speech and expression. Yet, the article argues that regulation is defensible if it can be shown that the harmful consequences arise in ways that bypass autonomy, or if it can be shown that the harmful consequences are unacceptable from the point of view of so-called ‘proleptic’ autonomy
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