Concerning a Smoker's Moral Right to Smoke

Given smoking's risks to myself and others, do I have a moral right to smoke while alone or in the presence of consenting adults?  If so, under what conditions?  If not, why not? 

Note related questions not being asked
  -  about smoking and smokers
  -  about legal rights of smokers

Reasons to deny such a moral right:

1.      Health risks to myself and others due to the effects of smoking and of second and third hand smoke. 

2.      Social costs.

3.      Morally self destructive to indulge in an destructive, addictive, expensive, unnecessary practice.

4.      Places short term pleasures over long term destructive consequences to self and others.

5.      Violates a duty to care for oneself and interferes with the duty to be a caring model for others.

6.      Non-smokers' consent may be coerced in a variety of ways; some consenters may not be aware of effects of their consent on others.

Reasons to affirm such a moral  right:

  1. Psychological benefits to myself and others (alertness when preforming repetitive tasks, increase ability to preform certain kinds of problem-solving, pleasurable subjective experience).
  2.  Social benefits of shorter lived smokers' paying taxes to compensate for smoking damages, and contributing to retirement and health benefits they will not live long as long to collect.
  3. A free person should be allowed to choose the day to day pleasures in living  afforded by smoking if they limit the risks to others.  
  4. Free people have a right to take risks that affect themselves.  A person should be allowed to do what the want so long as they do not harm anyone else/
  5. The practice of smoking between consenting adults may, on  occasion, lead to long term as well as short term goods, increasing impulse control and collegiality, and on rare occasions, even prevent violence.
  6. People should have a right to use tobacco as part of  the free exercise of their religious/spiritual practices.


Michael Kagan,
For Philosophy 302, Issues in Ethics
Le Moyne College, Syracuse, NY
March 2, 2010 


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