Q.)Tobacco smoking is considered to be a fashion and an addiction too, which has an established relation with the cancer. The Government has recently decided that 85 per cent a cigarette packet should display a pictorial cancer warning, which the tobacco companies opposed and appealed in the court But, the court upheld the decision of the government.
(a) Do you think that such a display warning on the packet acts as a deterrent to cigarette smoking?
(b) What are the other ways by which change in attitude and preferences can be brought in people who smoke out of fashion or addiction?
(c) What is the use of prohibiting smoking if it generates revenue on one hand and gives choice and freedom to people to enjoy their lives as they wish? Do you agree?
Examine the deterrence effect of graphics – discuss ways to bring attitude changes and evaluate prohibition on grounds of ethical conduct
(a) The idea behind placing graphic warnings on almost 90% of the surface of the cigarettes packet is to poke the conscience of the smokers while purchasing the cigarette. The optics of warning is crucial here.
The idea is to utilize the gross nature of images of cancer patients on the cover to help/force the smokers to visualize their future and induce a behavioural change in them in relation to smoking.
The immediacy of the impact may help one sigh away from smoking. It appeals to the psyche of the smokers. Soft persuasion based on appeals to rational as well as emotional faculties is used as an instrument to bring about change.
While there are studies that prove that such images prompt activities in areas of brain associated with decision making, emotion and memory, it cannot be completely relied upon.
Graphic warnings on the back of cigarette packets will not deter smokers much as knowledge alone isn’t enough to deter habitual cigarette smokers, who are hooked by their addiction to nicotine.
In theory, the graphics on the packets should prompt smokers to kick their habit, but in practice the graphic labels are perceived by many as a threat to their choices, freedom, or autonomy.
Thus, the purpose of placing pictorial warning fades. The will power and strong determination of leaving the nicotine habit can act as deterrence. Here, Aristotle’s concept of Akrasia, i.e., weakness of will helps us understand the situation better. Gandhi also believed that in case of deep rooted habits, appeals to rational faculties aren’t enough and knowledge cannot bring about attitudinal changes in such circumstances.
(b) Smoking cannot be prohibited by legal mechanisms at individual level as it will be against the
Right to freedom of choice and is also in violation of Mill’s harm principle but external methods can be adopted to restrict it. The approach should be to achieve the desired end without curbing one’s freedom by law. The measures which can be adopted are:
Tax increase on all tobacco products, can be enforced immediately and the taxes collected could be used to support health promotion and tobacco control Programmes.
Public health awareness, raising a mass movement against tobacco, sensitizing and educating all health care professionals for tobacco control and cessation by incorporating the topic in medical undergraduate curriculum, nursing curriculum, various CMEs, conferences, scientific meetings, workshops, etc. is vital.
Each individual should be made aware about his duties toward others in the society as smoking is not just for pleasure but have wider implications on society. A person is situated in a social context where many other people may be financially or emotionally dependent on her. In such cases, a brute individualistic approach may not be good to adopt.
Professional mentors should be used to increase awareness among the teenagers. The mind of teenagers is impressionable and hence this crucial phase of transition should be tapped to inform some attitudinal change. Once this age is crossed, the mind becomes rigid and any attitudinal change becomes really difficult.
c) Smoking has many ethical issues involved with it. Though it generates revenue for the government and gives freedom and choice to individual to live their life to their fullest, the need is to probe deeper into meanings of living life to its fullest as well as looking at revenue collected from vantage point of different moral agents.
It is true that state gets revenue from the sale of tobacco and collects tax on it, and the tobacco industry provides employment to around 35 million people in India, but that doesn’t justify this action. Aristotle argues that state comes for the sake of life and continues for the sake of good life.
Secondly, the public health cost of cancer patients goes against the ideology of libertarianism. It argues that one should take full moral responsibilities of one’s action. Consuming tobacco and then falling on society for health expenditure cannot be justified.
Thirdly, Mill’s harm principle at times gives insufficient guidance about what other-regarding actions are. Here, as we said earlier, individual is not a self-sufficient entity especially in a society having faith in community. Here, arguing that smoking is a self-regarding action doesn’t augur well. Thus, we see that there are enough arguments of all sorts in favor of restricting smoking as a practice.