Smoking Bans and Persons with Schizophrenia: A Straightforward Use of the Harm Principle?

Public Health Ethics 4 (2):143-148 (2011)
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Abstract

Indoor smoking bans in public places is usually held as a simple and straightforward example of the application of the harm principle in public health. However, implementing indoor smoking bans in mental health centres is difficult because of the potential neurological and social benefits of smoking for persons with schizophrenia, as suggested by some empirical studies. In this article, the ethical challenges related to smoking bans in mental health centres as justified by the harm principle are explored. Particular attention is given to the case of R v. Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust . The article concludes by arguing that the possible benefits of smoking for persons with schizophrenia creates a rightful interest that cannot be ignored even if one applies the harm principle to protect others from the negative effects of second-hand smoke. Applying the harm principle in the case of smoking bans in mental health centres requires protecting the interest of persons with schizophrenia to smoke via the value of reciprocity

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