Forum: Smoking: Striking a balance between personal liberty and public health

Smoking kills smokers and the people around them, and many in the community have called for a ban on cigarettes.

So why don't governments ban smoking completely?

One reason is personal liberties. The argument is that as autonomous agents of our own bodies, we have the right to do to our bodies as we please, and no authority can revoke this right.

In the context of smoking, it is the smokers' right to decide how and when they wish to do whatever chosen amount of harm to their bodies.

Lawmakers are always in a dilemma because despite recognising the third-party harms of smoking, they cannot have a person forgo his right to autonomy over his body.

Singapore's approach to the issue has been effective in reducing the prevalence of smoking among the young by introducing more barriers to entry.

By raising the legal age to smoke, raising tobacco tax and banning smoking in more places, Singapore is making it harder for non-smokers to pick up smoking. In this way, it has not fully banned smoking and taken away civil liberties, and it has also reduced the overall harm done to people by reducing the number of smokers in the community.

Harsh Hiwase, 20

Undergraduate student


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