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The 13th World Conference on Tobacco OR Health

Building capacity for a tobacco-free world

July 12-15, 2006, Washington, DC, USA

Wednesday, July 12, 2006 - 3:00 PM

The World of Smoking Guns

Amartya Sen, PhD, Department of Economics, Lamont University Professor, Littauer 205, North Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138

It will be argued that the development of a policy framework for dealing with the smoking guns of tobacco can be greatly helped by the use of the general principle prioritizing the "social commitment to individual freedom." A well-informed individual's freedom to take personal risks, when the freedoms and interests of others are not affected, must command considerable social respect, but other issues of freedom arise in a great many different ways in this complex subject. The other issues include (1) passive smoking, (2) imitative active smoking, (3) addictive "unfreedom," (4) scrutiny of the liberty to enslave one's future self (a subject that John Stuart Mill had addressed in another context), (5) prevention of misinformation and implicit or explicit incitement by producers or retailers, (6) societal positive duties to enhance more information and understanding, (7) assessment of public revenue, public expenditure and other social costs from the prevalence of smoking and the related medical costs, harms and unfreedoms, and (8) the special complexity arising from the fact that the gainers (including commercial profit makers and political or bureaucratic revenue seekers) are typically quite different persons from those whose well-being and freedom may be adversely affected.