"Leaving no one behind": the vulnerability of children from low SES households suffering from tobacco-related harm in light of human rights and social justice
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University of Groningen, International Law, Netherlands
Publication date: 2018-03-01
Tob. Induc. Dis. 2018;16(Suppl 1):A929
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Children from low SES households are particularly vulnerable to tobacco-related harm having adverse effects on their health, development, and wellbeing. Their disadvantaged position to positive health outcomes is caused by an intersectionality of medical, child developmental, and socioeconomic factors. Human rights law is a key vehicle to achieving sustainable development, health equality and ultimately social justice and as such an important mechanism to support the rights of children from low SES households in tobacco control interventions. However, the principle of vulnerability is also contested in human rights scholarship. Against this background, the objective of this paper is to generate new knowledge on the potential role of vulnerability as legal principle in protecting children from low SES households against tobacco-related harm. The central question of this study is to what extent vulnerability can inform the specific state obligations flowing from the human rights of children to adequately address the situation of children from low SES households in tobacco control interventions.

The paper design is a legal analysis. The paper reflects a normative analysis of the scope and content of vulnerability as principle in human rights law and locates the principle in the interpretation of specific rights. Methods include literature research, document analysis (primary and secondary legal sources) and treaty interpretation.

The results are that vulnerability may be of benefit in the progressive interpretation of human rights law. It can inform the application of specific obligations flowing from at least the health and interest rights of children.

The paper concludes that governments have obligations to promote the underlying determinants of health, actively support the wellbeing of children from low SES households in particular, and counter their systematic health inequalities, including in tobacco control mechanisms.

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