Ban on smoking in cars: liberal individualism is a threat to individual liberty

Edmund Burke warned us: “Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains on their appetites.” In other words, freedom is a privilege that can only be sustained and deserved if we use our freedom to ensure the well-being of others. Freedom has never been, nor could be, a charter for selfishness, without itself being destroyed.

A vote will be taken today on an amendment that has been tabled to the Children’s and Families Bill by Labour Peers to ban smoking in cars when children are present. This isn’t the first time this idea has been proposed, and it will have cross party support in the Lords as the last attempt was a Private Members Bill introduced by Conservative Lord Ribeiro in 2012. The health arguments against exposing children to smoke -and of course the everyone is at risk – are well rehearsed, and neatly summarised here by the BBC. It is worth reflecting however why we need this law.

Much as I recoil from the thought of more legislation to dictate our behaviours, I also accept that we have brought this on ourselves. Over the past few decades we have seen the rise of liberal individualism and mistakenly seen it as an expression of, rather than a threat to, individual liberty. We have been blinded by the entitlement of choice, rather than seeing through to the consequences of choosing. What remains important is not choice per se, but what we choose, and unless we make choices for the common good we delude ourselves that we can remain free. As the brilliant former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks expanded in his ‘Politics of Hope‘, freedom is a moral achievement; it rests on self-restraint and regard for others.

The freedom to protect our children simply because it is the right and moral thing to do has been abused, so it is only right that legislators now step in to enforce the right of children to be protected from smoke.


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social entrepreneur, writer, campaigner and commentator. She is based in London and is the founder and Chief Executive of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal. Through networking, technology, research, relationships and campaigning 2020health has influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. Julia studied visual science at City University and became a member of the College of Optometrists in 1991. Her career has included being a visiting lecturer at City University, a visiting clinician at the Royal Free Hospital, working with south London Primary Care Trusts and as a Director of the UK Institute of Optometry. She specialised in diabetes (University of Warwick Certificate in Diabetic Care) and founded Julia Manning Eyecare in 2004, a home and prison visiting practice for people with mental and physical disabilities using the latest digital technology, which she sold to Healthcall (now part of Specsavers) in 2009. Experiences of working in the NHS, contributing to policy development, raising two children in the inner-city and standing in the General Election in Bristol in 2005 led to Julia forming 2020health at the end of 2006. Julia is a regular guest on TV and radio shows such as BBC News, ITV’s Daybreak/ GMB, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions, BBC Radio, LBC and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week. She is mum to a rugby-mad son, a daughter passionate about Shakespeare, and wife of a comprehensive school assistant head-teacher. She loves gardening, ballet, Zimbabwe, her Westies Skye and Angus, is an honorary research associate at UCL and a Fellow of the RSA.
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2 Responses to Ban on smoking in cars: liberal individualism is a threat to individual liberty

  1. Jerry Brown says:

    This idea is akin to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic – it seems important at the time but, really, it’s irrelevant. Poor diet, inadequate housing, shattered families, a disturbed and directionless education system and a growing divide between the rich and the poor are behind much of the ills in our society. Stopping mums and dads having a fag in the car will address only one tiny, tiny, tiny, barely-relevant piece of the jigsaw that is poor outcomes for our children. Let us, instead, in my humble opinion, bang on about things that would effect more change; allowing the building of more social housing, undoing the hugely expensive privatisation measures in Health and Justice, the despicable behaviour of making Service Personnel redundant just days before their pension is achieved. I’d very much like to see our political leadership able to hold their heads up with pride because of their integrity – but I do not think I should hold my breath waiting.

  2. Pingback: I’ll rule the world someday | Melanie's Life Online

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