Chapter 3: Is there a human right to tobacco control?
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This chapter defends a legal human right to tobacco control. Building on existing work, the chapter argues that the legal case for such a right is strong. Existing international human rights treaties, chiefly the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, recognize a human right to health alongside several other rights that speak for covering tobacco control under human rights law. Drawing on Allen Buchanan’s pluralistic justificatory framework for human rights, the chapter argues that the philosophical case is strong too. Tobacco is among the deadliest public health threats worldwide and its health impacts so severe that humans should have a claim against their governments to protect them against the harms of tobacco. Human rights law is a promising avenue to strengthen this claim. The chapter then defends a human right to tobacco control against several philosophical worries. For example, is strong tobacco control compatible with personal freedom? Is it compatible with personal consent? Would human rights legislation facilitate power relations that unduly restrict national and individual self-determination? This chapter argues that concerns with freedom of choice, consent and power relations do not speak against tobacco control. Conversely, a concern with power relations speaks for a human right to tobacco control as it could lessen the power asymmetries between tobacco companies and vulnerable populations, such as children, smokers of lower socio-economic status and citizens in low-income countries with weaker governance structures.

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