Equality and a Complete Ban on the Sale of Cigarettes

Nethanel Lipshitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the last two decades it has become increasingly common to ad-vocate for a complete ban on the sale of cigarettes. One reason in favor of such a ban is egalitarian: differences in the prevalence of smoking between socioeconomic groups go a long way in explaining health inequality, and a complete ban might be effective in reducing this inequality. However, a complete ban might also be objectionable on egalitarian grounds if issued with a discriminatory intent or if it is selectively paternalistic. This article argues that a complete ban is likely to be guilty of both, especially when one of its aims is to reduce unequal rates of smoking between groups. A complete ban on the sale of cigarettes thus exhibits a curious feature: in aiming to reduce inequality it threatens to be inegalitarian. This is characteristic of a wider class of public health policies that deserves further attention by egalitarians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-113
Number of pages23
JournalKennedy Institute of Ethics Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by Johns Hopkins University Press.


  • discriminatory intent
  • egalitarian constraints
  • health inequality
  • pa-ternalistically egalitarian policies
  • selective paternalism
  • smoking


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