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Report: War on smoking is an attack on civil liberties that threatens us all

Mon 5th August, 2019

The war on smoking is an attack on civil liberties that threatens smokers and non-smokers alike, says a new report published today to mark the 40th anniversary of the smokers’ group Forest (Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco).

40 Years of Hurt: The hyper-regulation of smokers 1979-2019’ argues that policies intended to reduce smoking rates have deliberately encouraged intolerance of a legal habit and created a template that is now being adopted to target consumers of other ‘unhealthy’ products.

The report’s author, civil liberties campaigner Josie Appleton, said:

“Smokers are the canaries for civil liberties. In the past decade there has been a series of novel and unprecedented incursions on public and private rights. 

“Smokers are increasingly stigmatised and discriminated against not to protect the health of other people but ‘for their own good’. 

“This directly violates the harm principle that assumes a person has autonomy over their own life and body as long as they do not hurt other people.

“Outdoor smoking bans are justified not because there is a direct risk to anyone else’s health but to prevent smokers setting what the authorities consider to be a ‘bad example’.

“Outlawing smoking in places of residence, including mental health units, shows a worrying erosion of our rights to autonomy and privacy. 

“Smoking is now prohibited on most hospital grounds. Patients, some of whom are infirm or elderly, are forced off site, sometimes under duress.

“Workers who smoke during legitimate work breaks are threatened with disciplinary action. The list goes on.”

She added:

“What began several decades ago as a legitimate public health campaign to educate people about the risks of smoking has become a moral crusade that threatens our culture of tolerance and diversity.

“The war on smoking is not about smoking. I have seen the same move towards direct state coercion in many areas of social life, including regulation of the homeless and young people. 

“It is also telling that the kind of regulations imposed on tobacco are now being proposed for food and drink. All of us, whether smokers or non-smokers, have a fundamental interest in defending personal and civic freedoms so we can live our lives as we think best, rather than as the state tells us to."

Simon Clark, director of Forest, said:

“Since Forest was founded 40 years ago anti-smoking policies have evolved from education and voluntary codes to coercion and legislation.

“It’s time to stub out the increasingly brutal approach to smoking cessation that includes the deliberate persecution of millions of consumers. 

“In a free society adults must be allowed to make choices concerning their lifestyle without excessive state intervention.

“After four decades government must end the war on smoking and focus on choice and personal responsibility.”

40 Years of Hurt: The hyper-regulation of smokers 1979-2019

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