Letters - The legal discrimination of banning smoking

The state's claim to the right to ban smoking in public places in the name of "health" masks a legal discrimination, irrespective of the discussions of liberty. The debate over smoking tends to be based on a theoretical model in which smoking is seen as a "lifestyle choice".

Such a model fails, however, to take into account the constraints of many people's lives. It is no coincidence that individuals who experience poor material conditions are particularly likely to smoke. Movements towards an outright ban on smoking are likely to lead to the increased marginalisation and criminalisation of those very groups for which deprivation is a critical influence on health-related behaviour. A ban will work to the disadvantage of the poor in the same way as, for example, laws on begging.

Dr Catrin Smith
University of Chester

This article first appeared in the 24 October 2005 issue of the New Statesman, The debt pandemic