University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Mill, advocacy and the tobacco endgame

Snelling, Paul ORCID: (2014) Mill, advocacy and the tobacco endgame. In: Brave New World? Health, Technology and Evidence Based Practice, 8-10 September 2014, University of Nottingham. (Unpublished)

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Though its stricture has not been universally followed in modern liberal states, Mill’s harm principle remains important in public health ethics. Banning an individual from doing something because it’s bad for him requires stronger reasons than banning it because it harms others. In England, justification for smoking bans in enclosed spaces was firmly presented in terms of preventing harms to others, even if its subsequent evaluation also included health gains to smokers. The legal ban did not cover smoking outside where harms to others are less.
Care homes and hospices were granted exemption but in mental health units this was temporary, so that when they expired, the ban became de facto a complete ban where patients cannot go outside. During legal challenges in England, justification for the ban was sought in health gains for patients, including regarding the habit as self-harm. Recent NICE guidelines recommend total smoking bans inside and outside hospital for the benefit of smokers. For smokers, Mill’s principle has been overturned.
The supremacy of personal autonomy is central to nursing ethics, though less so in public health ethics. Smoking bans and their effect on individual patients is one area where these disciplines collide. Nursing claims (or requires) a role for patient advocacy but this can be variously interpreted and nursing can no longer prevaricate. It must choose to advocate for patients’ health (in favour of a ban) or for patients’ choice (against a ban), and the direction it takes clearly identifies where the profession’s values lie.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information:

Presentation given at: Brave New World? Health, Technology and Evidence Based Practice, 8-10 September 2014, University of Nottingham.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: nursing ethics, public health ethics, smoking bans, harm principle, John Stuart Mill
Subjects: R Medicine > RT Nursing
Divisions: College of Health, Life and Environmental Sciences > School of Nursing and Midwifery
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Depositing User: Paul Snelling
Date Deposited: 27 Mar 2020 15:40
Last Modified: 11 Jun 2024 14:20

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