Journal of the New Zealand Medical Association, 26-January-2007, Vol 120 No 1248
Cigarette pack covers (of health warnings) and individual freedom: the debate continues
Thomson et al (http://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/119-1247/2371/) advocate restrictions on free speech and expression as a means of lowering the rates of tobacco-related illness. Unfortunately, once the state starts to infringe the rights of individuals for the “greater good”, there is a tendency for this infringement to increase over time.
As long as cigarette smokers continue to suffer the health consequences of their freely chosen actions, there will be a push from the so-called public health movement for more and more draconian social control, until ultimately the government outlaws tobacco altogether and persecutes those who manufacture, sell and consume it.
In a 1996 article from the BMJ (http://www.bmj.com/archive/7070nd2.htm), the author cites high-ranking Nazi health officials active in the anti-tobacco movement either committing suicide, being imprisoned or, in one case, being executed for crimes against humanity.
Without wishing to cast aspersions on the character and motivation of Thomson et al, I suggest that their proposed bans on cigarette packet covers and the like are the thin end of the freedom-eroding wedge. Forcing adults to do what health bureaucrats say is best for them, in the apparent belief that they need protection from their own stupidity, is incompatible with a free society.
Richard G McGrath
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