Free Market Solutions in Health: Prohibition or Harm Reduction?


  • 15/07/2013
Some public health campaigners consider good health to be irreconcilable with free market capitalism. They regard the pursuit of profit as a major cause of unhealthy consumption and view certain industries as ‘disease vectors’. Accordingly, they support political action which limits commercial speech and restricts product development.

One consequence of this ‘neo-prohibitionist’ approach is that innovative products are banned under the precautionary principle. The sale of the two least hazardous recreational nicotine products – e-cigarettes and Swedish snus – cannot be sold in many countries despite growing evidence that they can play an important role in reducing smoking rates.

Current proposals in Britain and the EU to regulate electronic cigarettes as medical products have highlighted the conflict between the neo-prohibitionists and the harm reductionists. Will such regulation do more harm than good? Does the Swedish model of tobacco control have more to offer than the Anglo-Saxon model? Or will safer nicotine products ‘re-normalise’ smoking and undermine efforts to eradicate tobacco use?


Mark Littlewood (Chair)

Clive Bates – former director of Action on Smoking and Health

Christopher Snowdon – Director of Lifestyle Economics, IEA

Katherine Devlin – President of the Electronic Cigarette Trade Association

Rebecca Taylor – Liberal Democrat MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber

Dr Axel Klein – Editor of ‘Drugs and Alcohol Today’

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